In a preliminary response to the Scottish Government’s Budget, David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:
“Inevitably this Scottish Budget was dominated by the shadow of Covid. With much of retail – Scotland’s largest private sector employer - in the depths of its biggest crisis in decades, the Finance Secretary has clearly listened to SRC’s concerns and responded positively to extend full business rates relief for retailers until the middle of this year. This provides vital breathing space as the industry hopefully emerges from lockdown.
“The business rates waiver has been absolutely critical for the industry, much of which has had to cease trading three times so far during the pandemic. Avoiding April’s abrupt ‘reverse cliff edge’ - which was set to see a 100% reinstatement of business rates – was the industry’s top Budget priority. This is very encouraging, but the Finance Secretary must understand further support will be required in the future. Reopening alone will not be a panacea for the industry as shops will be unable to trade at capacity due to physical distancing and caps on the number of customers in stores.
“While the economic forecasts are sobering, there are other measures in the Budget that retailers can get behind. Consumer spending is the mainstay of Scotland’s economy, and the decisions to protect ordinary taxpayers from rises in income tax rates and to support consumers with a freeze in council tax are spot on.
“Hopefully none of these pro-growth measures will be diluted by parliamentary horse-trading over the next few weeks in order to secure a Budget accord. Robust debate and scrutiny of the Budget over the coming days is both right and necessary, however any failure to pass a Budget would add a thick layer of uncertainty at what is the most challenging of economic times for many firms.”