Reform of business rates is taking place in Scotland through the current Non-Domestic Rates Bill. One of the primary aims of the bill is to make the system easier and more simple to navigate for rate payers.
For the charity retail sector, protection of rate relief is of vital importance which is why we presented evidence to the committee scrutinising the bill. We continue to campaign for 100 per cent rate relief for charity shops nationally to tackle the ‘postcode lottery’ our members currently face.
The Non-Domestic Rates Bill, is heading towards Stage 3, the final part of the Scottish Parliament legislative process. On 4th December 2019, MSPs on the Local Government and Communities Committee passed an amendment to the bill which proposes business rates be set by local authorities. Following this development, I have contacted committee members and the Scottish Government for reassurance that charitable relief will not be impacted by this potential change.
According to Andy Wightman MSP, who proposed this amendment, mandatory 80% charitable relief is provided for in Section 4 of the Local Government (Financial provisions etc.) (Scotland) Act 1962 and therefore should not be impacted by the proposed change.
Putting business rate control in the hands of local authorities is a major change for the system nonetheless, and therefore concern has also been expressed by the Scottish Retail Consortium, Federation of Small Businesses Scotland and UK Hospitality. We are supportive of their efforts calling for an impact assessment on this proposal and what it would mean for retailers across Scotland.
In the run up to the final stage of the Non-Domestic Rates Bill we will campaign to ensure rate relief for charity shops is protected and that any significant change to the system is a positive step for our high streets.
Rachel Blair, Public Affairs and Communications Officer (Scotland)