THE Queen has had her tax bill slashed by thousands of pounds for three Scottish shooting estates including Balmoral after making a successful appeal, The National can reveal.

In a controversial move, the new rateable value (RV) for deer stalking at Her Majesty’s largest property in Aberdeenshire – Balmoral Castle – is now lower than that of many pubs, shops and restaurants in the area – some of which may be struggling amid the pandemic.

It means that small local businesses will pay higher business rates than the Queen’s deer stalking enterprises.

READ MORE: Balmoral: How Queen's tax bill compares to local Ballater businesses

As a result of the appeal, the rateable value for shooting at the 40,000 acre Balmoral estate is also now less than a quarter that of Ballater Primary School which has just 88 children on its roll, including 18 in the nursery section.

The National:

The Prince and Princess of Wales on holiday at Balmoral in August 1981.  Photo PA.

The revelations have prompted calls for a new review of land tax with the SNP MP Tommy Sheppard among those urging the Scottish Government to act.

“A lot of people will find this shocking and I don’t question that the assessor has acted within the rules but this is like putting in six foot neon letters that the rules should be changed,” he said.

“It cannot be right that major shooting estates pay less in community taxes than a small pub or restaurant.

“People will be shocked and alarmed and it will fuel the demand for change in land taxation.”

The Darroch Learg Hotel in Ballater has a RV of £31,000 and a business rates bill of £21,414. A shop on the village’s Bridge Street has a RV of £18,000, meaning a bill for business rates of £8964.

The Balmoral Bar, in Ballater, has a RV of £35,000, while Victoria’s Restaurant’s in the village is £12,250. A guest house, “No 45”, run by Alison Rosie and Leslie Towler on Ballater's Braemar Road has a rateable value of £11,250 – just over the new rateable valuation of £10,800 given to deer stalking at Balmoral.

Shooting and deer stalking ventures were exempt from non-domestic rates under legislation brought in by the Conservative Government in 1994, although the companies did have to pay rates for other aspects of their businesses such as offices and holiday lets – which remains the case.

The National:

The Queen pictured in her study at Balmoral Castle on 1 September 1972.   Photo PA.

But the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Act in 2016 removed the exemption in a bid to bring in a more equitable system of land ownership.

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Balmoral Castle has been the Scottish holiday home of the royal family since the estate was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852.

The royal family traditionally visits the estate every August and the Queen has been depicted taking part in deer stalking on the land in the global hit television drama series, The Crown which also featured the Prince and Princess of Wales on holiday on the estate.

The non-domestic tax rates bill is worked out by a formula which multiplies the RV with the poundage rate, set by the Scottish Government – currently 49.8 pence for properties with an RV of up to £51,000, 51.1 pence for those with an RV of more than £51,000 and £95,000, and 52.4 pence for properties with a rateable value greater than £95,000.

READ MORE: Scots primary school has higher tax rates than estate's deer stalking business

Entries published on the Scottish Assessors’s valuation roll reveal the Queen successfully appealed the £22,500 rateable valuation for the Balmoral shooting estate – getting it reduced to £10,800 – and was also successful in challenging a rateable value for the Abergeldie estate deer forest, also in Aberdeenshire, from £7600 to £6500.

The National:

Queen Elizabeth II with her dog Wren taking part in the Open Stake Retriever trials at the Balmoral estate in October 1967.       Photo Getty.

She won the appeal on the rateable valuation too at the Delnadamph deer forest in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, getting it cut from £8000 to £6150.

Her Majesty’s successful appeals mean her annual business rates bill for shooting activities at Balmoral have fallen from £11,205 to £5378, while Abergeldie and Delnadamph see a reduction of £547 and £922 respectively. In total the appeals mean the Queen will save £7296 a year.

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The revelations raise increasing concerns over how rateable values are assessed following a number of other successful appeals by aristocrats including the Duke of Buccleuch and Lord Margadale revealed by the Sunday National last year.

The National:

The Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, with some Highland cows on the Balmoral estate in 1972.     Photo Getty

READ MORE: Duke of Buccleuch sees shooting taxes slashed on his country estates

Leading land campaigner Andy Wightman, the independent Green MSP for the Lothian, said: “The fact that some of the wealthiest landowners in Scotland pay less in local taxes than small businesses such as pubs and shops is a scandal.

“It is long past time that Scotland had a fair and equitable system of land taxation based upon the market value of land.”

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John Finnie MSP, the Scottish Greens rural economy spokesman, said: “It is disappointing but not surprising that the monarch is seeking to minimise her tax bill for shooting estates. The rateable value of the royal family’s blood sports businesses should not be lower than community assets.

“The Queen owns vast tracks of land which could be put to better use for local communities, creating new jobs and tackling the climate and nature emergencies.”

Alex Rowley MSP, the Scottish Labour economy spokesman, said: “Regardless of who the owners are I believe this shows why we desperately need to review land ownership across Scotland and land taxation across Scotland.

“All people with a stake in a country should be paying their fair share towards the wellbeing of that country and that includes those who own masses of the land. They have not and do not pay their fair share and this must be addressed through a review of taxation and consideration must be given for a new specific fair taxation of land owners.”

The National:

The Royal Family pictured at Balmoral Castle in 1979.   Photo PA.

The National revealed two years ago that the Queen had lodged an appeal on the rateable value of deer stalking on her Scottish estates. 

Like other landowners she faced a delay with the appeal process because of the pandemic with the outcome finally decided late last month.

READ MORE: Revealed: The Queen appeals Scottish tax bill for Balmoral

Ian Milton, the Grampian assessor, told The National: “The initial exercise was carried out in Grampian in good faith with the best estimates of rateable value given based on the information available to the Grampian assessor at that time.

“Subsequent to the publication of the initial rateable values of shooting rights and deer forests, the amount of information made available to the Grampian assessor has increased significantly and that has resulted in valuations being refined and adjusted on appeal to reflect the position on the ground.

“To determine whether the rateable value of any subject is correct, be it shooting rights or a shop, you would need to compare that rateable value to the prevailing rental evidence for the subjects in question.

“The rateable values of shooting rights in the Grampian area reflect the prevailing rents of such subjects as at April 1, 2015.

“The rateable values of shops in Ballater similarly reflect the prevailing rents for retail subjects in Ballater as at April 1, 2015.”

A Balmoral Estate spokeswoman said: “Following an established appeals process, the rates applied to Balmoral have been set to more accurately reflect the workings of the Estate.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The valuation of all non-domestic property is a matter for the Assessors, who are wholly independent of central and local government. The Scottish Government has no locus to intervene in that process and owners, tenants and occupiers have the right of appeal if they disagree with the valuation of their property.”

Currently, amid the pandemic, pubs and hospitality businesses are among the enterprises which get a 100% rates relief, though the a measure has been criticised as inadequate for firms struggling to stay afloat.