Retailers call for cuts to tax and red tape

The retail industry is Scotland's largest private sector employer, providing 255,000 jobs. Photograph: PA
The retail industry is Scotland's largest private sector employer, providing 255,000 jobs. Photograph: PA
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RETAILERS are demanding the Scottish Government takes action to curb taxation and regulation to help keep high streets alive and create jobs.

In a paper to be published this week, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) makes 24 recommendations in five key areas that it wants to see tackled by the Holyrood administration.

The document, Scottish Retail: Creating Jobs, Investing In Communities, Boosting Growth, has been submitted to Finance Secretary John Swinney detailing how it believes more action is required on business rates, taxation, charges and levies, regulation, and the country’s infrastructure and skills.

The SRC wants the paper’s thoughts and recommendations to be considered as part of the government’s spending and taxation plans for next year, which will be published in the autumn.

Among the recommendations are calls for the business poundage rate to rise no faster than elsewhere in the UK, for the council tax freeze to be maintained, or rises kept to a minimum, and for a review of what it calls “the proliferation of government-inspired self-regulation, voluntary agreements and codes of practice”.

It also wants greater levels of investment in town centres and transport infrastructure, and a building standards system which encourages retail investment and expansion.

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said: “The retail industry has a great story to tell in terms of creating jobs and investing in our communities, and the Scottish Government’s next budget provides a fantastic opportunity to assist the sector to further build on its strong record.

“That is why our members believe that at the heart of the Scottish Government’s next tax and spending plans should be measures which help keep down the cost of doing business and cost of living, provide for a smarter regulatory environment and give retailers the tools to grow.”

The retail industry is Scotland’s largest private sector employer, providing 255,000 jobs, but the industry was angered by the large store levy on shops selling alcohol and tobacco introduced by ­Swinney last year and which is due to end next year after a campaign of opposition led largely by the SRC.

Lonsdale argued the levy had “been a blot on the Scottish Government’s claims to have the most competitive business rates regime in the UK”.