Business Rates (Relief)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 22nd January 2004.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 2:30 pm, 22nd January 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what the estimated cost is of introducing a minimum 80 per cent relief from business rates for community amateur sports clubs. (S2O-1111)

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

The additional cost of introducing at least 80 per cent rate relief for community amateur sports clubs is estimated to be in the region of £1 million.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I thank the minister for his reply to my question last week in which he announced the minimum 80 per cent relief. That is a great victory for Scottish sport as it will enable clubs to increase their investment in sports facilities and opportunities. When the relevant legislation is being drafted, will he consider including mandatory relief from water charges, which are also a considerable burden for many amateur sports clubs that do not qualify for the water charges exemption scheme?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

The Executive sought to put the allowance that we are talking about into the system. It is a victory for sports clubs, although they were pushing at an open door in relation to the Scottish Executive's view of the matter. We wanted to make the announcement early so that clubs could be aware of the substantial assistance that the allowance will bring to them when they are doing their financial planning for next year. The initiative will allow clubs to spend their hard-earned cash on other activities, such as encouraging talent and excellence in sport.

The issue of water rates is one for further discussion with the relevant minister.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Does the minister accept that the burden falls not only on local community clubs but on national organisations that are trying to develop sport at a grass-roots level? I refer him to the situation that is faced by the Scottish Rugby Union at Murrayfield. While trying to support local sport, the SRU has seen its sports development funding fall by 36 per cent from £700,000 to £450,000 but its rates bill rise by 42 per cent from £494,000 to £710,000—it now finds itself £260,000 worse off. Will the minister recognise the need for rates relief for organisations that are trying to pursue sporting excellence not only at a community level but at a national level?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

The relevant minister should get back to Mr MacAskill on that point. We are targeting sports clubs whose ability to function will be greatly assisted by the measure that we are discussing. Community sports clubs fall into that category but I would take some convincing that the larger organisations that Mr MacAskill mentions do.