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Uniform Business Rate Reforms

16th January 2020

Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes has replied to a letter from the Scottish business community highlighting the Scottish Government's support for maintaining the Uniform Business Rate.

In the letter she echoed concerns that the amendment to devolve control of rates to local authorities would create risk and uncertainty for both ratepayers and local authorities.

The text of the letter reads:

Dear all,

Thank you for your joint letter of 15 January 2020 regarding your concerns over the recent amendments to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill which seek to scrap the Uniform Business Rate and abolish Scottish Ministers’ ability to set national reliefs.

The Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill was introduced to support growth, improve the administration of the system and increases fairness as envisaged by the Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates.

It is clear from the strength of feeling of Scottish businesses as expressed in your letter that the Bill, as amended by the Conservative, Labour and the Green Parties, does not currently do so.

I am writing to confirm the Scottish Government’s unequivocal support for the Uniform Business Rate. The Scottish Government shares your collective view that the amendment supported by Opposition MSPs at Stage 2 introduces complexity, risks and potential unpredictability into the rates system. Non-domestic rates play an integrated role in the current wider local government finance arrangements by providing certainty and protection to local government funding whilst also ensuring certainty for ratepayers across Scotland.

I have previously written to the Local Government and Communities Committee after the Conservative, Labour and Green MSPs united to support Andy Wightman’s amendment. I enclose a copy of that letter.

In a few short weeks, all MSPs will have an opportunity at Stage 3 of the Bill to respond directly and immediately to the concerns of Scottish business. In the meantime I will continue to liaise with my parliamentary colleagues to persuade them of the critical need to listen to those concerns and reverse this unwelcome amendment.

For the Scottish Government’s part, I can reassure you all that we will not be supporting any amendments that continue to threaten the Uniform Business Rate, jeopardise the Scottish Government’s ability to set reliefs in subordinate legislation or undermine Local Government funding mechanisms.

I have also written to spokespeople in the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties to ask them to support the Scottish Government in retaining the Uniform Business Rate.

Regards

KATE FORBES

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