Amendments to business rates policy at the forefront of SPF calls ahead of Scottish Budget

10 Dec 2018

The Scottish Property Federation (SPF) has set out the key policy areas it wishes to be addressed in Wednesday’s Scottish Budget in a letter to Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP. 

Citing a recent report from the Fraser of Allander Institute which highlighted that for every £100m of demand for commercial development an additional £73m is produced for the economy, the letter details nine key actions that the Scottish Government could take to support the growth of Scotland’s real estate sector.

Chief among the SPF’s list of requests is to reduce the large business rate supplement to at least English levels or removed altogether, as recommended by the Barclay Review.  The SPF also urges the Scottish Government to not introduce an out of town business supplement as it would disproportionately hit an already hard-pressed retail sector.

Speaking after the publication of the letter, SPF director David Melhuish said:

“Generally, the Scottish Government have been very responsive to Scotland’s real estate sector and we hope this year’s Budget will create an environment to allow our sector to continue to grow and support the wider Scottish economy. 

“Business rates continues to be a huge issue for SPF members.  The Barclay Review advocated bringing Scotland’s Large Business Supplement in line with England and that is something we are pressing the Scottish Government to outline exactly how and when this will be done.

“On the Barclay recommendation for an Out of Town business rates supplement, we responded formally to the Scottish Government earlier this year and just recently reiterated our concerns, along with a number of others, that we see no merit in introducing such a policy.  We also do not see how this tax will make any substantial contributions to town centres.  The economy remains fragile and we do not believe further burdens on businesses will help, particular those in the retail sector where there have been a number of high-profile administrations.

“We are also greatly alarmed by the 88 new requirements suggested for planning services, including the Scottish Government, in the current planning Bill and we believe the Scottish Government must work with Parliament to reduce these additional burdens.”

Notes to Editor

The nine policy positions outlined by the SPF are:

Outline how the Large Business Supplement may be reduced to at least English levels or removed altogether
Do not introduce an out of town business rates supplement on ratepayers
Ensure the Scottish National Investment Bank is supported through appointing the best possible staff and ensure it has the resources to make an early, positive, impact on leveraging in investment to drive economic growth
Continue to invest in infrastructure to support economic development
Reduce the burdens currently added to the planning services applied at Stage 2 of the Planning Bill
Examine the case for a replacement of business premises renovation allowance in order to bring disused buildings back into economic use
Lobby the UK Government for a reduction of VAT on repairs and maintenance in order to encourage repair, maintenance and investment in older buildings
Provide more time for vacant listed buildings to be turned around before the impact of empty property rates kicks in
Increase the threshold of LBTT on residential property transactions so that the 10% rate does not apply until £500,000.

A full copy of the SPF’s letter to Derek Mackay can be found here

About the Scottish Property Federation

As a membership organisation, the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) is the voice of Scotland’s real estate industry.  Established in 2007, the SPF represents 185 organisations operating in Scotland.   We include among our members: property investors, including major institutional funds; developers; landlords of commercial and residential property; and professional property consultants and advisers.  The SPF works closely with those who advise and decide on public policy in Scotland to ensure that they are aware of the consequences of their decisions for the property industry and wider economy.  

As part of the British Property Federation (BPF) we also benefit from close links with the leading UK property companies and investors in the UK as well as the BPF's contacts with Westminster.
For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter @ScotPropFed.

For further information or to arrange Scottish Budget reaction from the SPF then please contact Colin McFarlane on 0131 554 1230.