Rate changes leave Midlothian businesses poorer

Figures reveal that Midlothian businesses will be left over £700,000 out-of-pocket as a result of Scottish Government changes to business rates.

Michelle Ballantyne MSP 23 May 2017. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Michelle Ballantyne MSP 23 May 2017. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

In response to a parliamentary question, the Public Finance and Digital Economy Minister revealed that since the SNP Government doubled business rates in 2015, the amount of money paid by local businesses has risen by 51.5 per cent. In the 2015/16 tax year, Midlothian businesses were taxed £678,700. Over the current tax year this is expected to rise to over £1.3 million.

The Scottish Government did not comment on these figures but has defended its record and listed the ways it supports business.

The latest figures have revealed medium and large firms north of the border have had to cough up the extra cash as a result of changes to the large business supplement.

In 2018/19, it is estimated the total bill for big companies will be £129,252,100, according to the parliamentary written answer by SNP ministers.

However, if that rate had been kept on par with the rest of the UK, businesses would only have to pay £64,626,550.

Michelle Ballantyne, Conservative MSP for South Scotland, has warned that the rate change will hurt the Midlothian economy and reduce job opportunities in the area.

She said: “After local businesses have complained that they are struggling on our high streets, these figures further highlight how the SNP Government is hurting our businesses.

“Under the SNP, Scotland is now the highest-taxed part of the UK for income tax and is also the highest-taxed part of the UK to run a business.

“After already burdening our businesses, the SNP are now considering implementing an out-of-town levy which will hurt businesses even more and make the tax system unnecessarily complicated.

“It’s time that the SNP start focusing on improving our economy and encouraging our businesses, rather than weighing them down with these unsustainable taxes.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are doing all we can to support the wider Scottish economy, including maintaining a competitive non-domestic rates regime for businesses in Scotland and we provide the most competitive package rates relief package in the UK, worth around £720 million, including the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which alone lifts over 100,000 properties out of rates altogether.

“We support town centres through Scotland’s Towns Partnership, providing information, support and services to contribute to the vibrancy, vitality and viability of town centres and neighbourhoods. We also want local authorities to do all that they can to support businesses in their towns, including giving full consideration to any request to use their powers to create local business rates relief or using any additional income they generate through the Business Rates Incentivisation Scheme.

“The Finance Secretary will set out his plans for the Scottish Budget on 12 December 2019.”