Government agrees to rates row rethink

editorial image

A favour performed by St Abbs Community Trust to hold donations for the village’s new lifeboat until it could set up an account of its own has landed the charity in hot water.

The trust, set up to run community-owned assets in St Abbs, has been told it is not entitled to an exemption from water and sewerage rates for last year because of the level of income in its account.

That was confirmed by Scottish Government environment minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP, who said that “unfortunately” the trust is not eligible for an exemption because “ministers agreed that all capital grants are included in income levels”.

All charities with an income of less than £300,000 pay no or reduced water, sewerage and drainage rates, and the Scottish Government said that even though the money was subsequently transferred and used to purchase the lifeboat that does not provide a basis for an exemption.

Trust member Anne Collin said: “Prior to St Abbs Lifeboat achieving charitable status, St Abbs Community Trust set up a sub-account to allow the team to maximise their fundraising efforts.

“All funds were duly handed over once charitable status was awarded, and we are now being penalised for this.”

However, after a stormy debate in the Scottish Parliament last week, during which MSP John Lamont argued the case for the trust, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed to instruct officials to look again at that decision.

“I am pleased that the First Minister has agreed that this decision is an unfair one and will now instruct officials to look again at it,” said Mr Lamont after the debate.

“It does not seem right that the trust is being punished for helping out the community lifeboat, so I look forward to officials seeing sense and awarding an exemption as soon as possible.”