Over 4,000 businesses facing hikes in rates

Scottish Government Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse at the opening of  Borders College  business centre in Hawick.
Scottish Government Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse at the opening of Borders College business centre in Hawick.

Only a small percentage of the 11,880 businesses in the Borders are expected to benefit from the business rates relief scheme announced by the Scottish Government last week.

Finance secretary Derek MacKay introduced a cap of 12.5% for businesses in the hospitality sector after representations from businesses across the country.

Until Mr MacKay made his announcement, it looked like 4,633 of the region’s businesses would be facing bigger bills after the revaluation of business rates.

The Scottish Government’s intervention, however, will help less than 10% of them – some 266 businesses – according to local MSP John Lamont.

He has been contacted by a number of the region’s small and medium-sized businesses, one facing a 9.2% rise after a 40% hike in its business rates at the last revaluation in 2010.

Mr Lamont said: “The finance secretary’s announcement of rates relief will only help fewer than one in 10 businesses in the Scottish Borders faced with hikes.

“Some businesses will face increases of thousands of pounds. While it will come as some relief to hotels and pubs in the Borders that their rises will be capped at 12.5%, no such limit applies to other sectors, and some will really be struggling.

“Businesses in the Borders are being told that they can’t appeal until after the rates come into force and won’t receive an answer until next year. The fear is that many will not survive until then.”

Business minister Paul Wheelhouse countered: “The Scottish Government has set out a very competitive package of measures to give small and medium enterprises the security and confidence to grow in these tough economic times.

“This overall rates relief package shows that, unlike the Tories, the SNP are serious about taking decisive action to support communities and businesses.

“There were 3,791 recipients of the small business bonus scheme in the Scottish Borders Council area in 2015-16. This represents an increase of 35% since 2008 when it was first introduced.

“Locally, even more businesses will now pay zero rates as a result of the budget.

“Overall, 61% of businesses in the Scottish Borders will see either a decrease or no change in the bills that they pay, helping to protect jobs and support firms.”

Colin Borland, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The sensible measures should provide some comfort for Scotland’s vital tourism and hospitality industries.

“The furore associated with this year’s revaluation shows why the system is long overdue for reform.

“It’s important to note that much of the help outlined is only funded for one year.

“A programme of modernisation must be delivered soon, and Scottish councils should be considering supplementing these measures, with a focus on smaller businesses on local high streets.”