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Scotland's winter budget offers relief to struggling businesses

Published:  10 December, 2021

SNP finance secretary Kate Forbes outlined the 2021/22 budget in the Scottish parliament yesterday (9 December), with some good news for ailing retailers and hospitality venues.

In a speech which covered Scotland’s spending plans, the finance secretary revealed that rates relief for the retail and hospitality industries will continue at 50% for the first three months of 2022-23, capped at £27,500 per ratepayer.

In addition, small businesses with a rateable value of less than £15,000 are exempt from paying any businesses rates in 2022, irrespective of their sector.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) welcomed the news concerning business rates relief, although the organisation emphasised that further measures were needed to stop firms going over a cliff.

“The announcement of 50% rates relief for the first three months of the 2022/23 financial year and capped at £27,500 per ratepayer does not go far enough to ensure that businesses across the sector, from pubs, bars and nightclubs to restaurants and coffee shops, have a fighting chance to continue their long recovery from the pandemic,” a spokesperson from the SLTA said.

Plans to lower the duty on alcohol were previously announced in Rishi Sunak's autumn budget - alcohol duty and tariffs are solely decided in Westminster.

Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the SLTA, commented: “Just when hospitality businesses were beginning to get back on their feet along comes the Omicron variant to throw a spanner in the works so the news in today’s Scottish Budget is a welcome step towards aiding our recovery, but more targeted support will be needed.”

He added: “However, as we have previously pointed out, there is an urgent need for a change to the current system of business rates as it is clear that the current system penalises hospitality businesses and is no longer fit for purpose in a world of online sales and the advantages that some sectors, supermarkets for example, have enjoyed during the lockdowns and periods of restricted opening for hospitality.”