WELCOME and dejection in almost equal measure have greeted the announcement from Finance Secretary Derek Mackay that he plans to implement the majority of recommendations made in the Barclay report into non-domestic rates.

Among his 30 recommendations, Ken Barclay, former head of Scottish operations for RBS, said some golf clubs, leisure centres, private schools and universities should start paying into the business rating system, although he said childcare centres would not have to pay.

A business growth accelerator will mean that from April next year, every new-build non-residential property will not pay rates until it is occupied for the first time. After that, the new tenant will have a year without rates. Mackay said the changes would make Scotland “the most competitive place in the UK for businesses”.

However, property consultant CBRE Scotland said that while the long-term aim of the review was to improve business growth and investment by reforming rates, it was given no remit to consider problems faced by firms following this year’s revaluation.

CBRE’s head of rating, Brian Rogan, said the three-year revaluations were a step in the right direction, but added: “The proposed implementation date of 2022 offers no support to businesses that are currently struggling with their rates liabilities, particularly those in the north east which have been impacted by the recent downturn in the oil and gas sector. For businesses which have received their new 2017 revaluation rateable values but struggle to easily see how they have been set, the only option is to appeal.

“The Barclay Review recognised flaws in the appeal system, and the lack of transparency behind setting rates that leads to a high volume of appeals. It highlighted the requirement for improvements in these areas, however, with the appeal deadline looming, it remains to be seen whether these will be delivered quickly enough to benefit businesses currently affected. Without the Assessors providing specific details of how the values have been arrived at, businesses have little choice but to appeal in order to properly audit their rates.”

The Scottish Council Development and Industry said a series of “imaginative recommendations” had been put forward and it welcomed many of them. Chief executive Mark Bevan said: “Balancing the needs of the economy for all, for example by introducing tax relief on childcare providers was positive.

“However, we understand concerns will still remain among leisure and tourism businesses over the impact of the last revaluation, and beyond the temporary measures delivered when faced with wider challenges, not least by the impact of Brexit on staffing… Scotland needs the Scottish Government to move as quickly on implementation as it has in responding to the review.

“We are encouraged that this will be the case but more will need to be done to help the system evolve to take account of changing business practices.”

Brian Rogan, from Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC), said: “Stimulating growth and boosting investment is SCC’s guiding principle in reforming business rates and the Business Growth Accelerator which will provide a one-year holiday on investment in new machinery or business expansion, is good for Scottish business.

“The remit of the review group included reforming the system so it could reflect changing economic and trading conditions which is what our members have been calling for.

“We are disappointed that there was no mention of reviewing the legislation around material change of circumstance appeal rights which are more restrictive in Scotland than south of the border.”

The changes were welcomed by the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland, whose Scottish policy convener Andy Willox, said: “The Scottish government has committed to a mostly sensible programme of rates reform that’s a product of the art of the possible.

“Growing firms should now be able to recoup some of their costs before being hit with a bigger rates bill.

“A three-year revaluation cycle should mean that businesses’ bills better reflect economic conditions. New relief for Scottish nurseries should give these important local businesses a much needed shot in the arm.

“These are all sensible measures which FSB is pleased to back.”

Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart said the changes should help “futureproof” the rates system: “Scottish Renewables earlier this year found some small-scale renewable energy schemes, particularly in the hydropower wind and solar sectors, faced rates increases of up to 650 per cent: levels which could easily push companies out of business.

“We are therefore pleased to see the Barclay review recommend significant reform, including a change to conduct revaluations every three years and a separate review of plant and machinery regulations which can capture the changes which have taken place in renewables since the last revaluation a decade ago.

“These changes will help futureproof the rates system to allow for further technological development in future.”

Mackay said his message to business following the review was clear: “Come to Scotland. Invest in Scotland, and grow your business in Scotland.

“The recommendations that we will take forward and the additional measures, beyond Barclay… demonstrate our ambition for the economy, and our desire to work with the business community to deliver upon that ambition.

“Once implemented, we will have a rates system that is fairer, more responsive and geared for growth.”