Following today’s announcement (28 January), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that if UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivers an extension at his own upcoming Budget Holyrood will use any money Scotland gets to ‘go further’.
In March last year Sunak announced that he was giving all occupied retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for 12 months during the 2020/21 financial year between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.
There have been calls from across the industry for the Chancellor to extend the business rates holiday but it’s currently unclear whether he will do so, although he has promised further support for Coronavirus-hit sectors in his next Budget on 3 March.
Robert Hayton, UK president of the real estate adviser Altus Group, says April cannot signal a return to pre-pandemic levels of business rates in England.
“If the end of the pandemic is indeed in sight, it has never been more important than now to ensure that viable businesses are supported adequately during these final months,” he adds.
“The Chancellor has to avoid a cliff-edge through withdrawing relief too early but he also cannot risk repeating the mistakes of the past where support was arbitrary rather than targeted to those most in need."
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has welcomed the extension but says it does not go far enough.
“Today’s announcement is good news, as is the promise of further ongoing business support – it gives us a much-needed stay of execution. The reduction in the poundage rate, from 49.8 pence to 49 pence – is also very welcomed.”
“However, further support from the Westminster Government is crucial and our hope is that UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak steps up to the mark by extending the current furlough scheme, committing to retain the commercial rates relief and the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for hospitality beyond March 31 and well in to 2022.”
“Our sector is battered and bruised – and the sooner both the Scottish and UK Governments can provide clarity on support and an indication of an exit strategy out of this pandemic the better. Our pubs, hotels and restaurants are at breaking point.”