FMQs: SNP ‘embarrassed’ over business rate hikes by own branch

Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs today. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs today. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Nicola Sturgeon was embarrassed over business rates hikes when it emerged that a SNP branch threatened to remove its custom from a hotel because of price rises caused by the policy.

The threat by the Banff branch of the SNP was used by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to ambush Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions.

Ms Davidson attacked the First Minister over the overhaul of business rates that will penalise Scottish firms as a result of the revaluation of “rateable values” (RV) firms undertaken by the Scottish Assessors Association.

Ahead of the Scottish Government budget, the First Minister has been urged to intervene because firms are facing a dramatic increase in the amount they have to pay.

Ms Davidson gave the example of the Banff Springs Hotel, which is seeing its rates go up by £50,000 in April.

“They have been faced with a choice: to either reluctantly put up their charges or to go bust,” the Tory leader said.

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Ms Davidson said the hotel had been forced to pass the charges on and had now had their first complaint from a customer, who had objected to paying £80 to hire a room.

The Tory leader read out the complaint, which said: “The increase in the hire fee is excessive to say the least. Should this fee of £80 apply to future meetings I can confirm there will be no further bookings and our business will be taken elsewhere.”

To laughter and jeers, Ms Davidson revealed that the author of the complaint was the Banff branch of the SNP.

“If the First Minister’s own party can’t support her policy isn’t time she did something about it?” Ms Davidson added.

As laughter rang out across the chamber, Ms Sturgeon said: “What Ruth Davidson is talking about is an independent revaluation of business rates. As we have outlined two weeks in a row, the final valuations will be issued later this year and all businesses have the opportunity to appeal if they think their valuation is wrong.”