Kate Forbes MSP has condemned an opposition attempt to end crucial rates reliefs schemes that benefit 11,050 of businesses in the Highlands.
Last week Labour and Tory MSPs on Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee voted for a Green amendment to the Non-Domestic Rates Bill that would remove the ability of Scottish Ministers to set the business rates poundage.
Amendment 9, lodged by Andy Wightman MSP, sets out to devolve powers to set business rates to councils. The effect is that rates would no longer be set nationally and business rates reliefs – including the Small Business Bonus and rates relief for nurseries – would automatically end.
Highland businesses would lose almost £20 million of relief under the plan.
The Federation of Small Businesses, CBI Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium have all raised concerns over the impact of the proposed changes, warning it will create added costs and deter investment.
SNP MSPs were the only members of the committee to oppose the move.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “Small businesses across the Highlands need more support, not less. We know that businesses in the Highlands already face higher costs due to the delivery charges, transport and fuel costs.
“The Scottish Government offers the most generous package of business rates reliefs anywhere in the UK, worth nearly £750 million to Scottish business. Astonishingly Tory and Labour MSPs have voted to withdraw nearly £300 million of relief in a move that would devastate Scottish business.
“More than 100,000 businesses across Scotland – and almost 11,000 in the Highlands (10,960) – benefit from the Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus. That would disappear, alongside other reliefs affecting including support for nurseries, under the proposals being forced through by opposition parties.
“A majority of Scottish businesses benefit from the lowest poundage anywhere in the UK and incentives that only exist in Scotland. All that is under threat as ministers would not be able to set a consistent rate and provide national reliefs.
“These plans would deliver a body blow to Highland businesses and would put at risk the delivery of local services. The Tories and Labour must back track on this disastrous move at the final stage of the bill.
“The Tories’ economic credibility was already in tatters, but this is just reckless.
“This makes crystal clear that the SNP is the only party that will stand up for Scottish business.”