New business rates legislation on ScotGov’s agenda

Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Government has signalled its intention to introduce a Non-Domestic Rates Bill to implement recommendations from the Barclay Review.

The announcement came as part of the First Minister’s Programme for Government, delivered during a speech to the Scottish Parliament (September 5).

The Bill will propose moving to a three-year valuation cycle, improving administration of the system by reducing the number of appeals and improving quality of information available, and reforming reliefs and tackling known avoidance measures.

The Scottish Government will also progress work on Barclay Review recommendations which can be implemented without the need for primary legislation. It will do this through an advisory Group, which will report later this year to inform further decisions on implementation.

The First Minister also confirmed that the Scottish Government will consult this autumn to restrict the promotion and marketing of targeted food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt as set out in the Scottish Government’s Diet and Healthy Weight Plan, published earlier this year.

A new Fair Work plan will see living wage, gender pay transparency and the exclusion of zero hours contracts become conditions for business support from St. Andrew’s House. A programme will be initiated to provide every business in every part of Scotland with superfast broadband.

Looking at the bigger picture, the Programme for Government also set out a ‘national mission’ to reach the most ambitious long-term level of infrastructure spend ever in Scotland, with a commitment to invest an additional £7bn – over and above existing plans – on schools, hospitals, transport, digital connectivity and clean energy by 2026. The First Minister announced plans to bring forward legislation to establish a Scottish National Investment Bank.

Retail bodies gave the programme a cautious welcome. David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said there was much that the retail industry could support, “especially on transport infrastructure, broadband and skills”.

“The SRC has campaigned for a more flexible rates system that better reflects trading conditions, and the move to three-yearly rates revaluations is a significant and positive step forward,” he added.

“We would however have liked to have seen a stronger emphasis on policies which encourage consumer spending, keep down the cost of doing business and encourage retail investment.”

The Scottish Grocers Federation welcomed a ‘Food to Go initiative’ will continue to provide small grants to help get fresh and locally sourced food in local shops. This, it said, was “a helpful addition” that gives some scope for the SGF Food to Go Grant Programme to be extended in 2019.