We understand the difficulties that Scotland’s retail industry faces as a result of the global pandemic. In recognition of that, the Scottish Government has provided businesses with more than £4.3 billion in support since the start of the pandemic.
We continue to support the retail sector and other businesses as we rebuild the economy following the pandemic, including through retail strategy, town centre review and city centre recovery task force work, as well as the Scotland loves local £10 million multiyear support programme.
The Centre for Cities report says that Aberdeen has the United Kingdom’s fourth-lowest high-street spend, noting that around 90 units currently lie empty. Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen Inspired suggest that reasons for that include business rates and overheads. Others point to how slowly the Scottish National Party got Covid relief out the door.
Aberdeen City Council has a master plan, but the reinstatement of 100 per cent business rates in six months’ time is casting a long shadow. What plans does the minister have to introduce a fairer business rates system and to restore a level playing field with England on the higher property rate?
As the member will be aware, in Scotland we have the most generous package of rates relief anywhere in the United Kingdom. Indeed, we were the only part of the UK to give full non-domestic rates relief for hospitality, leisure, aviation and retail. That was an investment of more than £700 million.
As the member will appreciate, decisions around NDR will be taken as part of the budget process. I very much look forward to his constructive and informed contribution to that process later this year.