BUSINESSES have been promised a new “fair and affordable” rates scheme in Humza Yousaf’s pro-growth economic plans.

Setting out his government’s legislative agenda for the coming year, the First Minister has pledged to take account of the views of shops and other private sector firms through a review of the non-domestic rates scheme.

Non-domestic rates apply to pubs, offices, shops, and other commercial buildings and are levied so that businesses contribute to local services. They are based on valuations of properties.

High street shops are especially vocal critics of the current scheme, arguing they face costs their online competitors do not.

In its report published in June, the New Deal for Business Group – a Scottish Government forum for the state to engage with the private sector – ministers were urged to make Scotland a more attractive place for property investors to operate in through reforming the system for how properties are evaluated in the rates scheme.

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Elsewhere in the Programme for Government unveiled on Tuesday, the Scottish Government said it would announce an updated tax strategy in 2024.

“This will include consideration of the overall burden of taxes on individuals, households and businesses, and how we continue to deliver a progressive tax system in Scotland,” the document stated.

The National: Humza Yousaf speaking at an anti-poverty summit in Edinburgh earlier this week

Yousaf also told MSPs of his plans to boost start-ups in Scotland with a £15 million plan to “support innovation and entrepreneurship”.

He said: “It includes increased support for Scottish EDGE and the Scottish Ecosystem Fund; continued work to implement Mark Logan’s excellent review of our technology ecosystem; a blueprint to make our colleges and universities stronger bases for entrepreneurs; and a programme to deliver the recommendations of Ana Stewart’s equally excellent report on supporting women into enterprise.”

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While Yousaf’s promised bungs for the private sector may win him some praise from the business community, it has attracted the ire of the trade union movement, who criticised his “profit-driven” agenda.

The National: Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, pictured at the STUC's new offices in Bridgeton, Glasgow
Photograph by Colin Mearns, Jan 22, 2022

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), accused the First Minister of having set out a “misaligned Programme for Government that promotes economic growth through a pro-business, profit-driven prism and gives very little detail, if any, on redistributing wealth from the top of our society to those most in need”.

He appears to have ignored the group’s calls for wealth taxes and other tax reform which they had previously claimed could provide a £3.3 billion boost to the public purse.

“Workers are the real wealth creators in our country, not the profiteers,” added Foyer.

“We have already demonstrated that taxing those at the top, revaluating our land and property and introducing wealth taxes can generate £3.3bn of extra revenue, helping to build a fairer, more equal country. This Programme for Government delivered on none of these policies.”