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[ 23-08-2010 ]

Commenting on the announcement by the Scottish Government that the number of businesses in Scotland receiving rates reliefs has increased by 18% over the past year, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: 

“We would encourage all businesses to investigate whether they may be eligible for rates reliefs this year.  The fact that 15% of firms which are eligible for relief under the Small Business Bonus Scheme are not yet claiming this benefit shows that there is still some way to go before take up is universal, and we welcome the commitment by the Scottish Government to write to these businesses to remind them of the significant savings that can be achieved.
“This has also been a year in which a Business Rates revaluation has taken place and a large number of businesses are worse off as a result.  Many businesses are not eligible for reliefs and some of those have seen rates bills increase by 50%, 100% and in some cases over 200%.  Unfortunately the Scottish Government has removed Transitional Relief, which would have cushioned these rises for businesses. 
“The Scottish Government’s own figures show that 40% of Scottish businesses are financially worse off as a result of this year’s revaluation, and this is the last thing that our economy needs at a time when our growth rate is flat-lining.  The timing of this revaluation could not have been worse, with valuations being based on evidence at 1 April 2008 – a time when the Scottish economy was still growing and immediately before we suffered five consecutive quarters of recession.  This revaluation takes absolutely no regard of the effects of the worst recession to hit Scotland since the Second World War and, as a result, many Scottish businesses will be paying the price for the next five years. 
“It is not too late for the Scottish Government to intervene.  In England, rates rises are cushioned by Transitional Relief, whilst in Northern Ireland, the Government has abandoned this year’s revaluation altogether.  Businesses here in Scotland deserve a better deal.  If the revaluation timetable does not take account of the recession then our Government’s duty must be to compensate for this, as other UK administrations have already done.
“The reliefs that the Government has put in place are welcome, but Transitional Relief would soften the blow for those businesses which are facing the worst of this year’s rates increases.”