THE Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) today called for an overhaul of the £2.8 billion business rates system in an effort to prevent more shops from pulling down their shutters.
The trade body said that 1,800 stores closed between 2009 and 2014 – a period that saw rates paid by the retail sector north of the Border jump 30 per cent.
Describing the system as a “tax on jobs and growth”, SRC director David Lonsdale set out a range of short-term measures that he said could help stem the number of store closures, support business investment and protect jobs. He urged the Scottish Government to consider introducing more frequent revaluations on retail properties and providing rates relief for empty premises undergoing refurbishment.
“Ahead of the Holyrood election there needs to be a thorough debate about how the next Scottish administration and parliament will seek to help raise the country’s rate of economic growth and improve business productivity,” Lonsdale said.
“Lifting private sector investment will be crucial to achieving this. There is a strong and growing consensus across business and industry in Scotland that the current business rates system is inadequate to the task, out of date, no longer fit for purpose and in serious need of fundamental reform.”
The SRC’s call came after the CBI reported better-than-expected sales volumes and said growth was forecast to accelerate next month.
The employers’ organisation said 36 per cent of retailers had enjoyed an uplift in volumes during the year to August, while 15 per cent reported a fall. That gave a positive balance of 24 per cent, well ahead of expectations for growth of 13 per cent.
CBI director of economics Rain Newton-Smith said: “Retail growth is continuing at a steady pace and it’s really encouraging to see firms’ investment intentions picking up alongside more jobs being created in the sector.
“Household spending seems to have remained firm going into the second half of this year, so the outlook for the retail sector looks upbeat.”