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The NFRN has joined 12 other business representative groups and industry bodies in writing to the Scottish Finance Secretary, requesting a business rates discount for all retail premises for the coming financial year.

The collective call to introduce business rates comes ahead of the unveiling of the Scottish Government’s Budget on December 9, which is expected to set the business rate and associated reliefs for the 2022-23 financial year.

Ferhan Ashif, NFRN Scottish district president, signed the joint letter that was sent to Kate Forbes MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, earlier this week. The letter stated:

 

Dear Cabinet Secretary,

 

We are writing jointly ahead of the Scottish Budget to ask that you introduce a further business rates discount for the coming financial year which reduces the burden for all retail premises.

We fully recognise the support your government has provided to the industry during the pandemic, including the business rates waiver. It came against a backdrop in which tangible headway has been made in recent years on broader aspects of rates reform – more regular revaluations, the retention of the uniform business rate, and the pledge to restore parity on the higher property rate with England – along with a consistent commitment to keep the headline poundage below the rest of the UK.

Yet for all the progress in pushing back against Covid, its clear the retail industry is still struggling in its shadow. We are almost two-thirds of the way through the current financial year and store sales and shopper footfall in Scotland have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, whilst shop vacancies have climbed to a six year high. As Holyrood’s Finance & Public Administration Committee noted this month, many retailers have incurred significant debt through the crisis including Covid loans and tax deferrals.

As the guardrails of taxpayer support are gradually withdrawn, retailers are ready to contribute their fair share. However, further assistance will be required in the transition. A return to full 100% business rates from April, which were at an onerous 21-year high prior to the pandemic, will be insurmountable for many shops.

Our organisations have a range of ideas on how Scotland’s rates system could better support the economic recovery in the short and longer term. However, we collectively believe one measure that requires to be taken in your Budget is a further discount to business rates in 2022-23 – one that is applicable to all retail premises and reduces the burden for all stores – to reflect the market reality and provide a bridge to the next revaluation in 2023. This would support the survival of shops, the jobs they provide directly and in the supply chain, and the vitality of our high streets and retail destinations.

 

Yours sincerely,

David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium

Ferhan Ashiq, Scottish District President, Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN)

James Barnes, Chairman, The Horticultural Trades Association

Dr Pete Cheema OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Grocers Federation

Tracy Gilbert, Regional Secretary – Scotland, Usdaw

Philip Goodman, Chair, Shopping Centre Management Group, Revo Scotland

Meryl Halls, Managing Director, Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland

Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association

David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation

Howard Saycell, Chief Executive, Retra

Anthony Short, Executive Director, Music Industries Association

Roddy Smith, Chief Executive, Essential Edinburgh

Jim Winship, Director, The British Sandwich & Food to Go Association

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