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Retailers urge rates review as shop vacancies rise – BBC News

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Scottish retailers have called for a review of business rates after reporting the highest number of empty shops in 18 months.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said the shop vacancy rate worsened in the last quarter to 15.9% – slightly up on the same period last year.

Shopping centre and high street vacancies both rose, with only retail parks seeing a slight improvement.

The SRC described them as “cheerless figures”.

It called on the Scottish government to reconsider plans to impose an increase in rates in the next budget.

SRC director David Lonsdale said “concrete action” was needed from policy makers to keep down the cost of operating premises, with stores in Scotland “missing out” on rates relief available to their counterparts in Wales and England.

He said retailers would be looking to ministers and their tax advisors “to get a grip on the onerous headline business rate and to deliver on the government’s ambition to ‘use business rates to boost business’.”

‘Strong rates package’

Mr Lonsdale added: “After all, the business rate is at a 24-year high and government forecasters have pencilled in a chunky uplift for next spring which, if implemented, would add £34m to retailers’ rates bills.

“The finance secretary must carefully assess the impact on firms and hard-pressed retail destinations when she comes to set the business rate in the Scottish Budget.”

A Scottish government spokesman said any decision on non-domestic rates for 2024-25 would be made as part of the budget later this year.

He added: “The Scottish government has set out a strong non-domestic rates package in 2023-24, including the most generous rates relief for small businesses anywhere in the UK, taking over 100,000 properties out of rates altogether.

“As part of this, it is estimated that around half of properties in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in Scotland will pay no rates this year.”

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