Business owners will have found little comfort in Derek Mackay’s remarks yesterday regarding business rates, an issue which, for many, is fast developing into a crisis that will have ruinous effects.
The finance secretary has insisted that the Scottish Government will not intervene to ease the burden of tax hikes facing companies across the country.
Following the first revaluation of rates in seven years, new charges are to come into force as of April, with some firms facing increases of up to 250 per cent in valuations.
There have been widespread warnings that these rises will hit some disproportionately hard. Swaths of the hospitality industry, for example, are already struggling with occupancy levels, while companies in the North-east of the country point out that their property values were assessed while the region’s economy was booming.
There are countless other cases where business owners have genuine reason to be fearful for their future. But even in broad terms, justification for the rates hike seems ill-judged. It is business, after all, that acts as a key driver for the country’s economy, and it should be encouraged rather than penalised.
What was particularly galling about Mr Mackay’s appearance before Holyrood’s finance committee was that he revealed “updated forecasts” indicating an extra £60 million in business rates money.
The sensible thing to do would be to put those funds towards easing the blow to businesses, but Mr Mackay refused. If the Scottish Government truly wishes the nation to be the most competitive place in the UK to do business, it should reconsider.