BUSINESSES affected by crippling rates rises are to receive extra help from the Scottish Government following a campaign by the Herald.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will outline plans at Holyrood today to help “key regions and sectors” hardest hit by the first business rates revaluation since 2010.

He is expected to focus on the north-east and the hospitality and licensed trade, potentially through new tailored sectoral reliefs.

Read more: £2.5bn shambles - Royal Bank of Scotland condemned over Williams & Glyn sell-off failure

A series of articles by The Herald this month has highlighted the threat posed to jobs by higher bills arriving in April, with some premises facing rate hikes of 400 per cent.

The north-east is particularly badly hit, as bills are based on 2015 trading conditions.

Since then, the downturn caused by the oil price slump has seen 30,000 job losses, and a devastating drop in trade for hotel, pubs and clubs.

Aberdeenshire Council has started its own local relief scheme in response, and Aberdeen City Council is likely to follow suit this week.

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, which has led opposition to the revaluation, gave a cautious welcome to news of the announcement.

He said: “We have asked for sectoral help because of the different way our businesses are rated, so that would be good in principle. But we have to wait and see the detail.”

Read more: £2.5bn shambles - Royal Bank of Scotland condemned over Williams & Glyn sell-off failure

It also emerged yesterday that the whisky industry faces major rises.

Diageo, which operates 50 sites in Scotland, including 29 distilleries, said its bill would climb 17 per cent, from £13.7m to £16m next year.

A spokesman said: “We operate in a highly competitive global environment and any increases in tax which add to the cost of doing business can impact on our competitiveness.”

Mr Mackay said the SNP had already helped businesses through a range of measures, including taking 100,000 small firms out of rates altogether, cutting the rate poundage from 48.8p to 46.6p, and raising the threshold for firms paying the 2.6p large business supplement.

He said: “These actions worth £155m, with an overall package of reliefs worth £600m, mean seven out of ten business premises in Scotland will pay either the same rates or less next year – with more than half paying nothing at all.

“Before the new property values came out I took action to support business. Since then I have been listening to firms across Scotland and today I will set out further steps to support Scotland’s economy.”

The statement comes ahead of a scheduled meeting tomorrow between Mr Mackay, economy secretary Keith Brown, and representatives of the licensed trade and hospitality sector.

Read more: £2.5bn shambles - Royal Bank of Scotland condemned over Williams & Glyn sell-off failure

Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser criticised Mr Mackay for ignoring warnings from businesses for months before acting.

He said: “It was clear that a crisis was emerging but instead of acting the SNP sat back and tried to pretend that it had nothing to do with them. Businesses weren’t buying it, and they’ll now want reassurances that the SNP will take urgent action to redress this situation.”

It is understood the new help may be introduced through secondary legislation, avoiding disruption to this week's final budget vote.

“They need real help from the Scottish Government, not just a passing of the buck to councils that have already had their funding cut by the SNP.

“If they don’t take meaningful action we face seeing the Scottish economy suffering as many businesses across Scotland will be left with no choice but to close.”

Nicola Sturgeon insisted yesterday that her government was in listening mode over rates.

Writing in the Daily Record, she said: “I appreciate times are tough for business and any rates revaluation will cause concern for some, but I want to reassure firms that my door is always open to new ways we can help.”