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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

It was included in the BRIA. I find it difficult to accept that the magnitude of change that has been identified would be sufficient to lead to a mass exodus of pupils. The impact of our proposals is equivalent to a 1.3 per cent increase in current average fees. That is a small increase compared to the average yearly fee increase of 4 per cent. That is why the financial memorandum is as it is—we do not believe that the policy change will result in a mass exodus of pupils to the public sector.

On any potential movement, some of the calculations that have been flying around use the average cost of a school pupil, whereas they should use the marginal cost. In the majority of cases, the marginal cost of a pupil moving from the independent sector to the state sector would be zero. Even if 3 per cent of pupils were to transfer, we do not accept the suggestion that that would leave the policy revenue neutral. The financial impact has been considered through the BRIA.

I will move on to the other points that were raised. Sarah Boyack talked about the importance of guidance, and I agree with her on that point. I will endeavour to provide the committee with as much detail as possible for scrutiny. That will start with the commitment that I have made to provide details on illustrative appeals.

Sarah Boyack also asked about the small business bonus scheme, because the Barclay review called for a review of the effectiveness of the scheme. It called for that review to commence on 1 April 2020. We are ahead of the game here: the contract for the independent review was awarded to the Fraser of Allander institute in the summer. The aim of that review is to evaluate the impact of the small business bonus scheme and whether it can be better targeted to support local investment, employment and growth. It is set to report its findings in 2020.