A vote by Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to hand control of business rate powers to local authorities has been criticised by retail groups, who have warned of the impact on c-stores.
MSPs on the Local Government Committee have endorsed an amendment to devolve business rates to councils, in one of about 30 amendments to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill.
A spokesman for the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) said the move could result in independent retailers becoming “a cash generator for cash-strapped councils”.
“Having different rates in each local authority will make it impossible for convenience multiples to plan their finances effectively as their stores in Edinburgh will be paying a different rate from their stores in Glasgow,” he told C-Store.
“Independent retailers run the risk of simply becoming a cash generator for cash-strapped councils.”
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) warned that retailers who implement reverse vending machines (RVM) under the Deposit Return Scheme might not now be entitled to an exemption from business rates hikes, as announced recently by the Scottish Government.
SRC head of policy Ewan MacDonald-Russell said: “Taking business rates out of the hands of Ministers and handing control over this tax to councils places a huge question mark over existing Scotland-wide rates reliefs, including those proposed to exempt reverse vending machines.
“Retailers, already facing a monumental task to implement the deposit return scheme, now face further uncertainty over whether the proposed exemption can be delivered. If it isn’t, that will add further costs to what is already an immense challenge for the industry at a difficult time.
“The reality is abolishing the uniform business rate is an un-costed policy shift of enormous magnitude which could have overwhelming implications for industry.”
Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman added: “We are extremely concerned over proposals to devolve business rate setting powers to local councils.
“Up until now, Scotland has led the rest of the UK in implementing measures like the Business Growth Accelerator Relief which incentivise investment among retailers and other businesses, but local rates setting could mean a huge step back for rates reform.
“Scotland-wide rate reliefs must be retained in the future, and businesses must not be left with the threat of higher rates bills and additional local levies.”
The Scottish Parliament will vote on all the amendments to the Bill in 2020.