A leading Aberdeen businessman urged the Scottish Government to stop viewing business rates as “a money-printing machine”, as the race for the Scottish Conservative leadership came to Aberdeen.
Interim party leader Jackson Carlaw held a summit with a number of north-east industry leaders yesterday to hear their continued worries over business rates.
The visit came ahead of a stage three vote in the Scottish Parliament on the Non-Domestic Rates Bill.
A re-evaluation of business rates came into effect in 2017 but was based on property prices gauged before the 2014 oil and gas price crash took full effect.
Charles Skene, who owns Skene House hotels, Inchmarlo Retirement Community Village and Skene Business Centres, was among those at the summit.
He said “Business rates have been a disaster for this area as we are still suffering from the huge downturn in the oil and gas industry.
“Business in Aberdeen has been dire for the last four years and you get nowhere by speaking to the rates assessor.
“The Scottish Government sees business as a money-printing machine without thinking of the need to make sufficient profit to employ people and reinvest.”
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The hike in prices led to firms taking drastic measures, including some demolishing buildings to avoid their mounting bills.
Mr Carlaw sympathises with the business owners.
He said: “It’s clear there are very considerable challenges in the north-east.
“The business rates bill increased from £1 billion to more than £2 billion over the course of this Government.
“It’s not just a cash cow that is permanently able to be raided for additional taxation without a long-lasting effect on the economy.”
The bill progressing through Holyrood follows the recommendations of the Barclay Review into business rates, commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2017.
Public finance minister Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government shares the concerns of 27 of Scotland’s leading business representative organisations that devolving business rates to councils as is being suggested would introduce unnecessary complexity, risks and potential unpredictability into the rates system.”
She added ministers will work with other parties to pass the law.