Firms from an array of industries have appealed for a freeze on business rates in an “unequivocal” letter to Scotland’s interim Finance Secretary.

Nineteen business groups from the retail, financial, property, whisky, wholesale, engineering, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and leisure sectors are urging the Scottish Government to follow the UK’s lead and suspend any increase in business rates – the equivalent of council tax on a residential property – during the coming year. This would support businesses struggling with spiralling costs amid a weak outlook for consumer spending.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney is due to present the Scottish Government’s budget on December 15. In last week’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed that business rates in England will not increase when the new financial year begins in April.

The joint letter says “we fully recognise that the Scottish Government, like business, is facing its own cost and inflationary pressures”. While some headway has been made in recent years on broader rates reform, the cost-of-living crisis in the wake of the pandemic means trading conditions remain “challenging”.

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“Given the decision taken in the UK Autumn Statement we ask that at the very least Scottish Ministers follow suit and similarly freeze the headline business rate poundage in the coming financial year,” business representatives said.

“This would aid firms with the costs crisis, help them keep down prices for customers, and ensure that no more Scottish commercial premises than currently do end up paying a higher business rate than applies down south.”

One of the signatories, Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale, added: “This is an unequivocal statement from a formidable cross section of representatives of Scottish industry and commerce, calling on Ministers to at least freeze the business rate in the coming financial year."

"Hopefully, the interim Finance Secretary will take heed and act in his Budget next month given the clear support from across the business community.”