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Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th October 2019.

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Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

No. Time is pressing.

When he was Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, the current Deputy First Minister acknowledged that. He said that the SNP Government was

“committed to setting the poundage rate no higher than that set in England”.

However, seven years on, we have still not caught up with that. The commitment rings hollow.

We have already discussed the independent schools sector. I come from Mid Scotland and Fife, which has a large number of independent schools. I echo the concerns of my colleague, Liz Smith, on the proposal to remove their charitable relief. The comparison with the rates that state schools pay is misleading; it is only cycling money through different parts of the public sector. That should not in itself be looked upon as an area for discussion.

As my colleagues have indicated, we will support the general principles of the bill, but we have missed some opportunities to make progress and improvements. The bill fails to take Scotland’s business forward in a competitive way, and it does not give us the system that we want. We will support the general principles of the bill at this stage, but we will be seeking to amend it at stages 2 and 3.