A SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONED review into how business rates are calculated has concluded that there should be very little change made to the current system.
In a report that will be largely met with despair by many Moray businesses, the calls for radical reform in the review undertaken by former banker Ken Barclay have been rejected.
Instead the review has concluded that the basis of the current system should be maintained – a recommendation welcomed by Scotland’s finance secretary Derek Mackay.
Mr Barclay worked with business experts, a lawyer and a retired civil servant in reaching the conclusion that the small business bonus scheme, which exempts around 100,000 properties with lower rental values, should be reviewed.
The report questions if it is right that some businesses should pay nothing before charges jump steeply for those above the rental threshold of £15,000.
While containing recommendations that will be welcomed by many businesses, the review does nothing for those facing crippling increases in particular in the hospitality sector so vital to Moray and the north east.
That has led to suggestions that, unless the Scottish Government take action beyond the current transitional relief in place until March next year, many businesses could simply stop trading.
Welcoming the Barclay Report Derek Mackay said: “I know the review group have worked incredibly hard, spending more than a year engaging closely with the ratepayers across Scotland before compiling their report.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their substantial efforts.” The finance secretary promised that the government would respond swiftly to the recommendations.
Moray MP Douglas Ross slammed the report, however, saying that while it contained some good news it did little more than tinker around the edges.
He said: “In the last year business rates have been one of the most common issues raised with me and while there is some good news from the review; for many businesses this is little more than tinkering around the edges.
“The hospitality sector which is so important in Moray rightly received a 14.9% cap earlier this year – when many were faced with astronomical increases. It was hoped that the Barclay Review would offer long term assurances for this industry, but instead we are left with the fact that this current cap expires in March with nothing in its place.
“Unless the SNP government come up with a solution, Moray businesses in the hospitality sector will be worried that history will repeat itself next year.
“If our bars, restaurants, cafes and other hospitality providers are hit with the same increases suggested last year, it would almost certainly mean the closure of some of these excellent local businesses and result in job losses.
“We have to ensure that does not happen and the Scottish Government have to explain how they will deal with this issue.
“There were welcome inclusions in the review and I hope the Scottish Government prioritises – [such as] recommendations to bring the large business supplement in line with the rest of the UK, and the measures to boost town centres and business growth. These can all have a positive impact here in Moray.”