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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 Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

I applaud and thank the members who have defended the timescale given to this critically important debate. As somebody who has been heavily involved with the bill, I believe that the more time given to it, the better.

Quite a number of points have been raised in the debate, but I will try my best to get through them. However, there is an open invitation to other parties to discuss any element of the bill in advance of amendments at stage 2.

James Dornan, the committee convener, referred to the broad welcome for three-yearly cycles. That in itself will resolve a lot of the challenges that we see in the appeals system. To address a point that was made by both James Dornan and Alex Rowley, I say that we need to both solve the appeals challenges and ensure that assessors are as well supported as possible. That is why we included £2.5 million in this year’s budget to go directly to assessors; that was the figure that they identified as the support that they needed this year and which they welcomed.

Murdo Fraser mentioned the business desire to see a tone date here that is in line with that of the rest of the UK. There are questions around the tone date for the rest of the UK because of the prorogation of Parliament, although I think that the bill to set the tone date there at 2021 is back in play. However, assessors were clear with us, and I believe that they were clear with the committee, that if we want to deliver the bulk of the Barclay recommendations and get things right, we need the timescale that is being proposed.

As I said in my opening remarks, the provisions are not about charity law or the important role that independent schools play. Liz Smith spoke about the financial impact, but that was assessed in the business and regulatory impact assessment.