Tesco Tax reaches sell-by date at Holyrood

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THE SNP's bid to levy a £30 million "supermarket tax" on large retailers across Scotland looks certain to be dropped today, with opposition MSPs lining up to vote it down in parliament.

The so-called Tesco Tax, under which large retailers would pay an extra sum on top of their business rates, is set to fall foul of opposition from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories, all of whom have called on ministers to scrap what they claim is an unfair tax on job creation.

But the Scottish Government will continue to argue the extra levy is justified on the grounds that "those with the broadest shoulders" should pay more.

The vote comes with stores continuing to lobby against the imposition of the tax, pointing to huge differences in the rates for which retailers and non-retailers would be liable.

Tesco said that while its new Tesco Bank office in Edinburgh would not be hit - and has actually seen its rates bill fall over the past year - its store in nearby Corstorphine would have to pay an extra 343,000.

Meanwhile, Asda said its store in Leith which would have to pay an extra 172,000. The company said the increase amounted to 17 times the rates rise set to be imposed on Scottish Gas's headquarters nearby, which currently pays a similar amount. Asda also published a poll of 1,000 Scots which showed 71 per cent believed MSPs should vote the levy down, while 74 per cent believed the tax was unfair.

A spokesperson said: "It's clear people in Scotland believe this is an unfair tax that will be bad for jobs and the Scottish economy. We hope politicians will take their views into account."

However, the Federation of Small Businesses has backed the tax. And last night, the body representing Scotland's pubs also urged MSPs to support it, saying supermarkets got a far better deal on tax than licensed premises.

A spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said: "We fully concur with the Federation of Small Businesses' statement that it is now more important than ever that the playing field is levelled wherever possible. We have been arguing this for many years."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We will press the case that those with the broadest shoulders should bear more of the burden in supporting spending for vital services, at a time when Westminster has slashed Scotland's budget by 1.3 billion."

But CBI Scotland's David Lonsdale said: "The tax is wholly at odds with the SNP government's claim to want to make Scotland 'the most attractive place for doing business in Europe' and it should be ditched."