Budget: Scots hospitality industry warns of'cliff edge' – HeraldScotland

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Glasgow 10°c
Duty has been cut on draught beer in pubs
THE Scottish Government has been urged to match the relief from business rates handed to the hospitality industry in England by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Autumn Budget – when the current exemption in Scotland ends in April.
Sunak unveiled a new 50 per cent business rates discount for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors south of the Border in a tax cut he declared would be worth £1.7 billion.
It was among a raft of measures to support the hospitality sector in yesterday’s Budget, which included a duty cut on draught beer and cider sold in pubs. Sunak said it was the biggest cut in cider duty since 1923, and the largest reduction in beer duty for 50 years.
Scottish business groups have responded to the business rates changes by calling for similar action by ministers north of the Border when the current exemption ends.
Hospitality, leisure, retail and aviation businesses in Scotland are currently free from paying business rates under measures to support companies through the pandemic. But the break is due to end in April, and hospitality chiefs fear it could “make the difference between survival and closure” for many businesses in Scotland if it is not extended.
Leon Thompson, executive director of UKHospitality for Scotland, said: “Today’s Budget Statement from the Chancellor made clear the commitment to provide a 50% discount rate to businesses in the coming financial year.
“Hospitality businesses have benefitted from two years of 100% relief on business rates from the Scottish Government, but face a cliff edge from 1 April 2022 if relief is not continued.
“Today the Chancellor has declared his support for business and the Scottish Government much at least match this if hospitality businesses across Scotland are not to face further financial difficulty and possible closure.
“Our businesses are at the heart of communities. They remain in a fragile state and need a commitment from the Scottish Government that they can look forward to the same support as their counterparts in England.”
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “In Scotland, there is a very welcome rates freeze until March 2022. However, the SLTA now calls on the Scottish Government to at least match, if not improve on, the Chancellor’s ‘aid package’ for our industry with the added proviso that this is directly focused on those most in need within the sector.
“Unlike the on-trade, supermarkets and other retailers selling alcohol benefited from remaining open throughout the pandemic while the hospitality sector bore the brunt of a range of restrictive measures curtailing their ability to trade – more so than any other business sector.”
The rates discount was among a number of tweaks the Chancellor made to the rates system down south, which fell short of the comprehensive review business groups had been calling for. The changes include an incentive for businesses to invest in property improvements without facing extra business rates for 12 months.
In the Scottish Government’s response to the Budget, Ms Forbes said it was “interesting to see the UK Government belatedly adopting our ideas” on business rates.
She said: “We are already committed to three yearly revaluations from 2023 and were the first administration in the UK to introduce a relief for property improvements in our more generous Business Growth Accelerator relief, which also covers new builds.
“This year our retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation relief, at 100%, is more generous than the UK Government’s and we already have the most generous renewable energy relief package in the UK.”
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