Retail sector's fury over SNP's '˜toxic' tax hikes

The Scottish Government's 'toxic' tax hikes have come under fire after it emerged thousands of jobs have been lost from Scotland's high streets.

The retail sector has been hit by thousands of job losses, it has been revealed. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The retail sector has been hit by thousands of job losses, it has been revealed. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Shops have axed 6,400 staff over the past year, with 185 stores closing their doors, the Scottish Government’s latest business statistics have shown.

The impact of changing trading conditions, particularly the rise of online shopping, has seen many stores close their doors in recent years, with households names like BHS among the victims of the squeeze.

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More shops closed in Scotland than in any other part of Britain in 2016, with one shutting each day, a report in April found.

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Over the past eight years, employment in the retail industry has shrunk by 16,400, down 6.3 per cent over the period, according to the latest ‘Scottish Annual Business Statistics.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the policies of Scottish ministers have also had a role in the demise.

“These latest figures graphically highlight the impact of the toxic cocktail of burgeoning tax and regulatory costs and transformational change in the retail industry,” he said.

“Sadly our warnings about the impact of rising government-imposed costs on an industry in profound transition are being borne out, with fewer jobs and fewer retail stores. In particular the loss of over 6,000 jobs over the past year must act as a wake-up call to policy makers.”

Firms have complained of tax hikes in recent years including the Apprenticeship Levy which is estimated to cost shops £15million a year, but only started in April and won’t be covered by the latest figures. The Large Business Rates Supplement was also increased last year meaning extra costs of £12m a year for firms.

The national living wage was increased in April, and employers’ statutory pension contributions are set to rise next spring and again in 2019.

But a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “These figures are from 2015.

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“The Scottish Government is doing everything within our powers to support our economy and have committed to around £660 million of business rates relief this year which includes lifting 100,000 business premises out of rates altogether.

“We will respond swiftly to the Barclay review of Business Rates.”

Ministers also working with the SRC to develop a retail strategy.