Local shops have welcomed a review of non-domestic rates in Scotland designed to make the system fairer for them – especially those wanting to invest or expand their property.
Ken Barclay, the former Royal Bank of Scotland chairman, who chaired the review, made 30 recommendations for changes to the business rates system north of the border.
This rationale for the recommendations was to better support business growth, and long-term investment, reflecting changing marketplaces.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) highlighted three key recommendations
One was to introduce a year-long delay before rates are increased when an existing property is expanded or improved and also before rates apply to a new-build property – which coined as a “Business Growth Accelerator”.
Another was a call for three-yearly revaluations from 2022 based on market conditions on a date one year earlier, and the third was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Small Business Bonus Scheme.
James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS said the Business Growth Accelerator was “a welcome step towards incentivising businesses to invest in their properties and increase the range of services on offer to customers”.
He also welcomed the recommendation for more frequent revaluations, which would reduce the shock of significant changes in valuations which was experienced last time when there was a seven-year gap between the 2017 and 2010 valuation periods.
Pete Cheema, chief executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation, welcomed the evaluation of the Small Business Bonus Scheme but hoped it would be extended to take more convenience stores out of the rates system altogether, allowing them to focus on investment in jobs and services to Scottish communities.
Barclay, the author of the review, said while his recommendations addressed some of the most frequent and high-profile complaints heard from ratepayers, it was important not to underestimate the impact administrative changes could have on businesses.
“By making a series of recommendations to reduce the administrative burden on businesses we can also support economic growth by freeing up time to allow them to do what they do best - growing the economy,” he wrote in a foreword to the review.
Scotland’s finance secretary, Derek Mackay, said: “This report offers recommendations for reform of the system to make it work better for ratepayers across Scotland while ensuring that the contribution they make to important local services is maintained.”
The Scottish government would respond “swiftly” to the recommendations, he said.