FSB: Scottish Budget must protect and extend small firms’ rates relief

Press Releases 29 Nov 2023

Protection and extension of small business rates relief will be key in next month’s Scottish Budget, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said.

In its submission to Finance Secretary, Shona Robison, ahead of her 19 December statement, the small business lobby group makes the case for the reintroduction of targeted reliefs to help small firms in retail, leisure and hospitality.

It also warns against further surprise changes to or erosion of the Small Business Bonus Scheme, dubbed a “lifeline” by many of their members.

Andrew McRae

Scotland Policy Chair, Andrew McRae, said:

“Last week, the Chancellor used his Autumn Statement to extend targeted rates reliefs for those in retail, leisure and hospitality in England for another year.  We of course have a different system north of the border, but the particular mix of challenges these sectors face – from their exposure to energy costs, food price inflation, staffing availability, faltering consumer confidence and more – still apply.   Given that no such targeted reliefs have been available in Scotland since last July, there’s now a strong case for their reintroduction.

“We also need to protect the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which has been a lifeline for so many small firms. Last year’s Budget saw the surprise move to raise the qualifying thresholds, bringing some small businesses into paying rates for the first time.  The effects of these changes will continue to ripple through the economy as the transitional relief tapers off over the next two years, so this is not the time to make any further amends.”

FSB’s Big Small Business Survey from earlier this year found that 52% of businesses in the Wholesale and Retail Trade and 51% of those in Accommodation and Food Service Activities have reported a decrease in turnover in the last year.

The FSB Budget submission also highlights the importance of delivering on the commitment, set out in the New Deal for Business, to more robust analysis of the impact of proposed new regulations on small businesses and assessment of the cumulative impact of regulations.

It also calls for small firms to get a fairer deal when bidding for government contracts, by including targets for public body spend with small and micro businesses in the forthcoming Community Wealth Building legislation.

Other suggested moves include making Scotland a more attractive place to start a business by piloting ‘bread funds’, which allow the self-employed to support each other financially in case of sickness.  The submission also proposes using the Scottish National Investment Bank to lever more funds into small businesses, particularly those led by women, disabled and ethnic minority entrepreneurs.