Kate Forbes MSP has welcomed a u-turn from the Conservatives and Labour as they joined the SNP by voting to save crucial rates schemes worth £20 million that benefit almost 11,000 Highland businesses.
Labour and Tory MSPs on Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee previously voted for a Green amendment to the Non-Domestic Rates Bill that would have removed the ability of Scottish Ministers to set the business rates poundage.
Amendment 23A, lodged by Andy Wightman MSP, sought to devolve powers to set business rates to councils. That would have meant rates would no longer be set nationally and business rates reliefs – including the Small Business Bonus and rates relief for hydro schemes, mobile masts, fibre broadband and nurseries – would have automatically ended.
But today (4 February 2020) in the Scottish Parliament chamber the Conservatives and Labour both changed their tune from committee and instead sided with the SNP – meaning that the schemes will be protected.
Kate Forbes MSP said: “I am delighted that Tories and Labour have done a u-turn and supported the SNP in retaining the Small Business Bonus Scheme.
“Only a few weeks ago, the SNP were the only party on committee to defend the Scottish Government’s power to set rates and reliefs.
“I know businesses were deeply concerned across the Highlands about the opposition parties’ decision to abolish most reliefs, including for nurseries, hydro schemes and mobile phone masts amongst many others.
“This is a major victory for all the businesses that got in touch and for the SNP who have been resolute throughout.”
The Federation of Small Businesses, CBI Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium all condemned the impact of the Greens’ amendment, warning it would have created added costs and deterred investment.
The final vote on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill takes place tomorrow evening (Wednesday 5 February) – but by defeating the amendment it means schemes like the Small Business Bonus are safe.