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Finance Secretary confirms extension to business rates holiday

Following the announcement of £1.1BN of consequential funding from the UK government, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has confirmed the extension of 100% business rates relief for another year for retail, tourism, hospitality and aviation businesses.

The move builds on the three month rates relief extension announced in the Scottish Budget and will be taken forward provided the Scottish Government receives the funding already assumed from the UK Budget on 3 March, and that requisite funds are available to maintain existing support into 2021-22.

She also confirmed £50M investment for town centres and £10M in capital funding specifically for tourism infrastructure in rural communities for next year.

Ms Forbes said:

“When I presented our budget last month I guaranteed to extend non-domestic rates relief further if I was given the necessary resources. I can now deliver on that promise, providing the UK Budget in March delivers the funding we require.

“The other measures I am proposing today, including further support for hospitals, schools and local government and measures to tackle climate change, build on our priorities to ensure a robust recovery for our economy and public services.

“This welcome additional consequential funding was confirmed to us yesterday and I wanted give early notice to parliament and provide clarity to businesses.

“We are still in the throes of a national emergency and it is important Parliament works together to respond. I will continue to work with all parties to help deliver a budget for the nation fit for these times.”

The STA released the following media statement:

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said;

“The STA welcomes the First Minister’s announcement that the Scottish Government’s strategic framework is under review and that the updated routemap will hopefully be published next week.  It is absolutely critical that the tourism industry is given as clear an indication as possible around reopening, given the sheer reliance on the domestic market as a result of the Scottish Government’s extension of quarantine and the need for businesses to start trading again.

Many businesses have already rolled over bookings from last year to this year and there can be no guarantee that those customers will maintain their commitment given this level of uncertainty

Since the First Minister’s announcement this afternoon, we have had an influx of correspondence from tourism businesses extremely anxious at the First Minister’s indication that an Easter reopening is highly unlikely and that a question mark has been placed over domestic travel this summer.  The STA Board will meet with the First Minister in the coming weeks and take the opportunity to update Ms Sturgeon on the desperate state that the industry is in.  I know of numerous businesses who are wholly reliant on being able to trade again at Easter in order to stay solvent; today’s indication that this is highly unlikely will I know serve as a crushing blow to many.

On a positive note, I know that our industry is breathing a huge sigh of relief as a result of the Finance Secretary’s announcement that she will extend 100% business rates relief to the sector for another year.  This has been one of the STA’s priority asks in recent months and we have had many constructive conversations with Ms Forbes over the past few weeks and as recently as this morning; I am delighted that our voice has been heard and also that a package of support has been extended to Scotland’s town centres with additional capital funding specifically for tourism infrastructure projects in local communities.  There is however no doubt that upweighted targeted support must be allocated to the tourism sector if businesses are not going to be able to trade viably for months to come and the STA will continue to press both the Westminster and Scottish Governments for this.

Scotland’s tourism industry continues to be 100% aligned to the health agenda; our businesses are committed to opening in a safe and secure way, giving customers confidence as a result of the level of financial investment which has been adopted across the sector.”

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