Rate Revaluation (Successful Appeals)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 7th October 2010.

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Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour 12:00 pm, 7th October 2010

To ask the First Minister what percentage of business rate appeals was successful after the 2005 revaluation and how many the Scottish Government expects to be successful this year. (S3F-2634)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Successful business rate appeals after the 2005 revaluation reduced the rateable values of those who appealed by just under 4 per cent. Appeals that are lodged following the 2010 revaluation will be dealt with in a timely manner and must be disposed of by the valuation appeals committees before December 2013, although in practice the vast majority will be resolved through negotiation with the assessors before that date.

Since the 2005 revaluation, we have introduced groundbreaking measures to support Scottish businesses. The latest figures show that, under the Government's measures, almost half of all properties in Scotland, particularly in the small business sector, pay no business rates at all.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I thank the First Minister, although I did not ask him by how much the rates bill had been reduced. I asked him what percentage of businesses had been successful in appeals. Perhaps he will reply in due course to that question, of which he had notice.

Does the First Minister agree with the comments of the deputy assessor at Grampian valuation joint board that the 40 per cent increase in appeals this year reflects the fact that many small businesses no longer benefit from rates relief because of this year's revaluation? Does he acknowledge that 86,000 businesses are worse off? Will he now, finally, respond to the calls from the chambers of commerce and many small firms up and down the country for the Government to provide transitional relief for the businesses that are worst affected?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Sixty four thousand small businesses throughout Scotland no longer pay business rates. If it had been up to the Labour Party, that figure would be zero, since Lewis Macdonald opposed the small business bonus scheme.

On the precise ability to cope with appeals, I have been doing a little bit of research into a little bit of history, and I have been looking in particular at Aberdeen. It is true that there has been a sharp rise in appeals against valuations this year, but I have compared it with the 2000 valuation, when Lewis Macdonald was the planning minister and, lo and behold, in Aberdeen there were 4,221 appeals against the revaluation in 2000 compared with 3,645 this year. [Interruption.]

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Why is that the case, one wonders? Of course, back in 2000, when the Labour Party was in office, there was no small business bonus scheme, so many more people in small businesses were forced to pay rates. There was no renewables rates relief, for example, and the rural scheme was inadequate compared with what it is now.

However, the key feature of the situation when Lewis Macdonald was the planning minister is that the poundage rate in Scotland in 2000 was 45.8p compared with the English level of 41.6p. Under the current Administration the Scottish and English poundage rates have been equalised, which means that every business in Scotland has received that benefit and that bonus.