RETAILER Internacionale has joined a campaign to force Holyrood to consider a U-turn on a rates rating delay that has been branded a “stealth tax aimed at the heart of the Scottish economy”.
The chain has joined 80 individuals that have already signed the ‘No Delay To 2015 Revaluation’ online petition since it was launched on Tuesday evening.
The petition seeks to overturn the government’s decision in November to delay a property rating revaluation from 2015 to 2017 that will see businesses pay higher rates two years longer than they would under previous plans.
The petition has been spearheaded by Peter Muir, director and head of rating for property agency Colliers International in Scotland.
He said the government’s decision to adopt the same policy as Westminster and put the revaluation back to 2017 means businesses will continue to pay business rates based on pre-crash property values in 2008, instead of current values.
According to research by Colliers, rental values have dropped by an average of 23 per cent since 2008 across Scotland. Muir also believes that the move will also dissuade new tenants from taking commercial space.
Carol Morrison, Internacionale property manager, said: “The challenges facing retailers are well documented and the proposed delay to revaluation would heap further pressure on a sector that plays a key role in the wellbeing of the Scottish economy.
“We hope the Scottish Government will see the serious impact this would have on many businesses and withdraw its earlier proposal,” she added.
Muir said the postponement “rides roughshod over Scottish businesses and the harsh realities they have to face up to”.
He added: “For the retail sector, in particular, this could have a devastating impact.”
Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “It is bad enough that the 2010 revaluation of business rates was predicated upon notional rents immediately before the Scottish economy entered the longest and deepest recession in modern history – a recession which we continue to feel the effects of some five years later – but the decision by the Scottish Government to prolong these false valuations still further flies in the face of common sense.
“Scotland needs a rating system that reflects the challenges of doing business in Scotland today, not one that is based upon the pre-recession boom years.”
Internacionale was one of the first retailers to be hit by the recession when its former parent company, Glasgow-based Ossian Retail Group, went into administration putting more than 1,000 jobs at risk.
At the time of the group’s collapse, the company had 105 stores across the UK, including 30 in Scotland. The value fashion chain, which was acquired by investors through a Jersey-based company, now boasts 150 outlets, with 25 in Scotland.
The petition will be open until 1 March and will then be formally lodged to the petitions committee at the end of the month.
“With every petition the committee will decide which action to take,” a spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said. “Ninety-nine times out of 100 they will investigate further.”