The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), jointly with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and other leading businesses and groups, have set out a united call for a freeze in business rates in Scotland. This clear ask is directed towards the Scottish Government's Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary ahead of the upcoming budget announcement on 19 December, which will set the business rate and associated reliefs for the 2024-25 financial year.
Scotland’s business rate is already at a 24-year high and a fifth higher than at the start of the previous decade. If increased in line with current CPI inflation, ratepayers across Scotland could face an extra £205 million on their rates bills from next Spring. This would be at odds with the Scottish Government’s recently stated aim to use business rates to “boost business”.
The joint letter from the business representative and trade bodies was submitted to Shona Robison MSP, the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary, at the end of last week. The text of the letter can be read here.
Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of the HTA, has highlighted the importance of providing businesses with cost certainty and asks the government to acknowledge the significant role the horticultural sector plays in Scotland's economy. In 2019, the industry contributed £2.8 billion towards GDP and supported over 64,000 jobs in Scotland.
“Our sector has faced a year of challenges and volatility around climate change, high inflation, workforce access, and regulation changes. Whilst the sector has shown resilience, it is vital that the Scottish government demonstrates an understanding of the economic and business context they are operating in. Alongside the other signatories of this letter, we are confident that freezing the business rate in the upcoming Scottish Budget would be a positive and welcome step to help ease the burden that our members have been facing for a long and difficult time and, in return, we can deliver more sustainable economic growth.
“We also need the government to recognise the value of environmental horticulture in delivering across policy areas and support our members to help them deliver on Scotland’s green ambitions and green growth as outlined in our Scottish Environmental Horticulture Growth Strategy.”
The HTA has also asked for action by the Chancellor on business rates in England. In its submission to the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the 2023 Autumn Budget, the HTA has asked for the Spring cliff-edge for businesses with both rates reliefs ending and rates rising to be addressed as businesses face ongoing cost pressures.