Scotland politics

Minister Keith Brown says no post-Brexit plan to cut Scottish business rates

Scottish money Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cutting business rates is a plan not currently on the table for the Scottish government

Scotland's investment minister Keith Brown told the BBC there was no plan to cut Scottish business rates in light of the Brexit vote.

His comment came after the Scottish Conservatives urged the Scottish government to implement a five-year rates freeze for businesses.

Mr Brown said such taxes would be reviewed in due course.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser believed a "helping hand" could be given to businesses if rates were cut.

Mr Brown, who is cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities, said the decision by UK voters to end Britain's membership of the EU meant taking action "in a new situation".

He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that the Conservative's business rates cuts plan had been made prior to the referendum.

The SNP minister explained: "We are in a new situation just now post Brexit - there are huge uncertainties.

"The most effective way to make an economic impact, to provide certainty in terms of jobs and to businesses is to invest in infrastructure, not just because it employs people right away but because it improves productive capacity of the country.

"If you improve the infrastructure, your roads, your hospitals your colleges and so on you improve the potential capacity of the country and that is why we think it is right to focus on this."

He added: "We have a review of business taxation, as announced by the first minister."

Image caption The Scottish government believes that stimulating the economy, through investment on infrastructure projects was the best way forward

Mr Brown was speaking the day after Nicola Sturgeon announced £100m of funding to boost Scotland's economy following the referendum which saw the UK vote by 52% to 48% to leave the EU. However, in Scotland 62% of voters wanted to retain membership.

The Scottish government will bring forward support for job-creating projects and arrangements to help businesses deal with uncertainty.

The £100m - which comes from underspend in previous budgets - will be made available in the current financial year to speed up delivery of health and other infrastructure projects which are currently in the pipeline, including £5m for expansion of services at the Golden Jubilee Hospital.

Mr Fraser said that while this announcement was welcome, the Scottish government needed to do two key things.

The first was to rule out a second independence referendum and the second was to "listen to the calls from the business community in Scotland to address the cost of doing business".

'Be more ambitious'

In an interview with Good Morning Scotland, Mr Fraser said: "Their [business community] primary concern is rates which have been hiked by 42% since the SNP came to power in 2007.

"Our answer would be to stimulate the Scottish economy and give a helping hand to business by freezing business rates for the next five years - that was in our manifesto for the parliamentary election this year, it is something widely supported in the business community and it would deliver a real helping hand to businesses of all sizes across Scotland.

"It is something absolutely essential that needed to be done before Brexit because the Scottish economy was, relatively speaking, underperforming to the rest of the UK.

"It is needed even more now and it is a pity the Scottish government are not being a bit more ambitious in their own thinking rather than just bringing forward spending money that should have been spent last year."

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce urged ministers at Holyrood to act now on business rates.

Its chief executive Liz Cameron explained: "Scotland Business Rates will be revalued in less than eight months' time but the values that will apply are based on the economy as it was on 1 April 2015 - over a year before the EU referendum and before the worst effects of persistent low oil prices became apparent.

"If the Scottish government chooses to do nothing about next year's rates bills, then businesses will be hit with valuations that bear no relevance to the economic conditions they will be facing next year."

Post-Brexit meetings

On Wednesday, the Conservative government's Scottish Secretary David Mundell began holding talks in Scotland with leaders from the business and public sectors.

He continued those discussions on Thursday when he met representatives from Scottish local authority body Cosla.

Mr Mundell said he told the gathering that the UK government was doing all it could to make sure the UK government was "working hard to get the best deal for all parts of the UK".

He added: "Local authorities come together in Cosla to collaborate, despite their political differences, for the benefit of their communities.

"In the same way the UK government will work with the Scottish government and other partners as 'Team UK', to ensure that we maximise the opportunities for Scotland as we forge a new role for our country in the world.‎"

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