THE Queen is appealing the business rates on her shooting estate in the Highlands, an investigation by The National has found.

According to documents in the public domain Her Majesty has lodged an appeal against the rateable value of the sporting land she owns at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire.

Country properties with shooting and deer stalking rights were exempt from non-domestic rates levied on businesses such as shops, pubs and hairdressers under legislation brought in by the Conservatives in 1994. But the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Act in 2016 removed the exemption.

Surveyors then gave a rateable value (RV) to each of the sporting estates to determine the business rates they would have to pay. The bills for each property are worked out by a formula which multiplies the RV with the poundage rate, set by the Scottish Government – currently 48p for properties with a RV of up to £51,000 and 50.6p for those with a RV more than £50,000.

READ MORE: How shooting estates were brought into business rates system

Entries published on the website for the Scottish Assessors Association reveal the Queen is appealing the £22,500 rateable valuation for one site at Balmoral and a £12,500 valuation for a second on the same estate.

The formula suggests that for the first site the business rates are £10,800 a year, and for the second £6000, meaning for the two areas of sporting land the Queen is appealing a rates bill of £16,800.

Andy Wightman, the Scottish Greens MSP, said: “Bringing shooting estates into non-domestic rates is about fairness and it’s no surprise wealthy landowners are seeking to pay as little as possible.”

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP MP for Edinburgh East, said he was “astounded” by how low the Queen’s business rates bill was for her sporting estate. “If £16,800 is the rates she pays for the sporting estate at Balmoral, it seems very low. I’m astounded. It’s less than a small bar in Edinburgh or Glasgow would pay,” he said. “Tax is about the ability to pay and I am confident the Queen is not going to be overburdened by her rates bill for Balmoral and will lead by example by making her due contribution to public services.”

The National searched the assessors’ roll to find out how much a small bar would pay. The Mono Bar in Glasgow, for instance, had a rateable valuation of £42,500 – suggesting an annual business rates bill of £20,400, which is £3600 more than the two sites at the Balmoral sporting estate.

Under the Land Reform Act the revenue raised from business rates applied to sporting estates would go towards a new Scottish Land Fund to promote community buyouts with accompanying documents suggesting the amount raised would be around £4 million a year.

The National: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The Scottish Government reintroduced the rates to bring in a more equitable system of land ownership after campaigners opposed the exemption enjoyed by landowners, saying it perpetuated inequalities in wealth and income. The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was not right just 432 landowners own half Scotland’s private land and ministers set a target of having one million acres in community ownership by 2020.

A report by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation in 2014 found shooting is worth £200m a year to the Scottish economy and“provides significant conservation benefits”.

The Balmoral estate covers 45,000 acres. It has been the summer home of the royal family for more than 150 years since it was bought by Queen Victoria, and attracts 80,000 visitors a year.

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace told The National: “We wouldn’t comment on matters relating to a private estate.”

It is understood the Queen’s estate is not disputing payment, but seeking clarification as to how the rateable values have been applied, as the estate covers two local authorities.

Katy Dickson, at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Rates have a huge impact on the viability and sustainability of businesses that contribute to local economies. It was disappointing that the reintroduction of rates on shooting rights and deer forests was not fully thought through.

“This has led to a less than satisfactory valuation process in which the assessors had to work with little information in limited time. SLE and its membership have been engaged with the assessors and Scottish Government from the outset and continue to work constructively with them. We want to see fair and consistent valuations, and transparent procedures. Anyone subject to rates follows the same valuation appeals processes.”

Ian Milton, Grampian assessor and president of the Scottish Assessors Association, said: “Members of the public may inspect the valuation rolls for all of Scotland at The information available includes the description, address and rateable value of all non-domestic subjects assessed for rating purposes.

“In addition, owner/occupier details held by the assessor and a marker to show whether there is a live appeal relative to a subject is also provided. At the last revaluation 32% of all subjects revalued in Scotland were subject to appeal. Appeals are dealt with by local independent Valuation Appeal Committees. The committees have until December 31, 2020, to dispose of their current appeals.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are dedicated to delivering a fair and sustainable rates regime and in 2016 we removed an exemption so that shooting rights and deer forests were brought back into line with other ratepayers.

“We provide the most generous package of non-domestic rates reliefs anywhere in the UK worth an estimated £750 million in 2019-20, up from £732 million in 2018-19. As with all rateable non-domestic property, owners, tenants and occupiers may apply for different reliefs. This includes the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which is more generous than any of the equivalent schemes elsewhere in the UK. Estates where the shooting rights are not being utilised will qualify for empty property rates relief.

“Valuation appeals are part of an independent statutory legal process and may ultimately be determined by the court of session. The Scottish Government has no locus to intervene in any independent legal hearings, including valuation appeals, but all ratepayers have the right to request an expedited hearing.”