Business rates are 'uncompetitive'

Image caption,
The SCC said that business rates are becoming uncompetitive

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) has warned politicians that changes to business rates are making companies uncompetitive.

The SCC has joined the criticism of the introduction of a supermarket levy and the increases faced by firms following revaluation.

It has set out a six-point plan it wants to see influence manifestos in the run-up to the 5 May ballot.

It wants government to stop measuring its effectiveness by its spending.

The SCC said "our business rates are becoming uncompetitive with the rest of the UK and this needs to be reversed if we are to maximise growth and investment".

'Prioritise spending'

SCC chief executive, Liz Cameron, said: "It's time we stopped this nonsense and focused on what really matters, outputs and results.

"Scotland plc must deliver better value for money if we are to retain essential services."

Her lobby group wants to prioritise spending on infrastructure, at a time when budgets are getting tighter, to support local businesses with public procurement, to ensure skills training is effective and that Scotland has a broad and balanced energy supply, while it develops renewable power.

Ms Cameron added: "Business growth has returned but it is clear that the recovery is proving to be shallower than many had anticipated, and there is still a long way to go before many businesses catch up to where they were before the recession took hold.

"That said, there have been numerous success stories and 2010 was a fantastic year for many Scottish businesses".

In another New Year message from a business perspective, the Scottish Council Development and Industry called for an emphasis within government on supporting young people through the public spending cuts in 2011.

Chief executive Lesley Sawers said government spending decisions should be tested for how they impact on younger people and the fairness between generations.

This follows a budget from the UK coalition government that protects several benefits for older people, while cutting spend on student tuition and child benefit.

Dr Sawer said: "A successful, dynamic and internationally-competitive economy depends on finding innovative and effective ways to deliver the right mix of work skills to as many of our young people as possible, where and when they need them.

"In challenging times, tough choices must be made on where to invest our resources.

"Let's ensure that in 2011 and beyond, investing in securing a fulfilling future for all our young people remains a key priority within a successful, sustainable and inclusive Scotland".

On Wednesday, three other Scottish business organisations issued New Year messages.

CBI Scotland sparked a political row with its report card on the SNP's economic record in government.

The Scottish government has defended its approach to business rates, saying it has removed business rates bills from thousands of smaller businesses.

While it has refused to introduce a transitional relief scheme for those facing sharp increases in rates bills, it plans to introduce a levy on larger retailers, including supermarkets.

This is intended to raise £30m per year, affecting around one in a thousand commercial premises, and ministers argue it will help rebalance the power of supermarkets against smaller traders.

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