Scottish business rates: our call for full rate relief

This week we had the opportunity to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee.

Following our written submission to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill call for evidence in May 2019, we were invited to participate to a witness panel on 25 June to provide information on ratepayer experiences.

The committee – composed of a cross-party group of MSPs – is scrutinising the proposed bill which has a main objective of reforming the business rates system. The intention is support business growth, improve usability, and ensure the rates system reflects changing marketplaces. The Bill is a follow up of the recommendations made by the Barclay Review which took place in 2017. Following our campaign to protect charity shop rate relief, the Barclay Review concluded that charity shops should remain in benefit of 80 per cent mandatory rates relief.

In my evidence I spoke of the importance of rates relief to the viability and vitality of the charity retail sector. I participated in the committee panel alongside the Federation of Small Businesses, the Scottish Retail Consortium and the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

I informed MSPs of the ‘postcode lottery’ around discretionary rate relief provision and how it results in an unfair and inconsistent system. I highlighted the potential for the rates system to provide a mandatory 100 per cent relief for all charity shops. This would support charity retail investment in all local authorities and would allow for better long-term planning.

Final thoughts in the discussion focused on the significance of charity shops on the high street. I sought to challenge negative perceptions around charity shops and pointed out that they are not in competition with other retailers but are essential partners in a vibrant high street.

The evidence session was a great opportunity to present the experiences our members have with the business rates system in Scotland and contribute to the development of this important legislation. We continue to campaign for 100 per cent rate relief for charity shops across the UK and will take every chance to present the case for doing so.

Rachel Blair
Public Affairs and Communications Officer (Scotland)Charity Retail Association