The Scottish Retail Consortium is seeking the prioritisation of measures which will support consumer spending and help lift private sector investment in the Scottish Government’s upcoming Budget which is expected to be unveiled later this autumn.

In its 14-page submission entitled ‘Shaping the Future of Scottish Retail’ sent earlier this week to the Scottish Finance Secretary (see link below), the SRC highlights the profound changes affecting retail and proposes detailed recommendations in key areas affecting consumers and retailers such as Scottish income tax, council tax, business rates, the apprenticeship levy, newly devolved taxes and regulation.

The submission from the leading sectoral trade association comes ahead of the expected publication later this autumn of the Scottish Government’s spending and taxation plans for next year, 2018-19.

The retail industry is Scotland’s largest private sector employer, providing 250,000 jobs, and the SRC’s members include well known high street, out-of-town, online and grocery retailers. However Scottish retail is an industry in transition and official data shows a net decline of 1,700 shops and 10,000 fewer retail jobs over the past seven years.

The industry wants to see Ministers prioritise policies which help sustain and lift Scotland’s private sector economy over what it views as calls for harmful increases in taxation to business and consumers.

Specifically, the SRC is recommending that Scottish Ministers:

  • Deliver on the recent welcome commitment to co-produce a Scottish Retail Strategy
  • Bolster consumer confidence by ruling out increases in income tax rates, and consider accelerating implementation of a zero-rate income tax band
  • Capitalise on the Barclay Rates Review to recast business rates for the decade ahead, to ensure rates better flex with economic conditions and deliver a medium-term plan to substantially lower the rates burden
  • Build on the recent increase in the threshold for the Large Business Rates Supplement by setting out a timetable for the restoration of parity with England as advocated by Barclay
  • Introduce a moratorium on new or additional rates levies during the remainder of the current parliamentary term
  • Ensure levy-payers benefit directly from the mooted £10m Flexible Workforce Development Fund, increase the size of the Fund and tie its future funding growth to the projected overall increase in devolved receipts from the Apprenticeship Levy

 

David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:

“With consumers and retailers under pressure from higher inflation, rising costs, and anaemic growth, the Scottish Government has to put growing the economy at the very heart of its next budget.

“First and foremost consumers need to be protected. Disposable incomes are flat, and there is evidence customers are choosing to spend less on discretionary items as household bills continue to rise and wages moderate. The Scottish Government should keep income tax rates down, boosting customer confidence and keeping consumer spending buoyant to support the economy as well as government revenue.

“Retailers too will look for support to help them keep down prices and stimulate investment plans. The Barclay Review rightly pointed out that our current business rates regime is inadequate to the task ahead of helping to lift private sector investment. We want to see progress made on Barclay’s call for an end to the self-defeating Scotland-only rates surcharge on medium-sized and larger commercial premises, and a moratorium on new or additional rates levies. This would keep down the cost of doing business on our high streets and aid more economically fragile communities. Working with firms to ensure they directly benefit from the Apprenticeship Levy monies and more investment in GDP-enhancing infrastructure are also essential to allow retailers to better compete in the digital economy.

“Last year’s Budget contained some positive steps forward, with modest changes to the Apprenticeship Levy and Large Business Supplement thresholds. The SRC hopes the Finance Secretary will be bolder this year, resisting siren calls to raise income taxes and with a further decisive step towards bringing the rates supplement into line with England. With half of VAT receipts being assigned to Holyrood our politicians have a direct stake in facilitating a flourishing retail industry. Retailers will be looking to the Finance Secretary to act when he brings forward his Budget later this year.”

DOWNLOAD: SHAPING THE FUTURE OF SCOTTISH RETAIL