Business rates shake-up urgently needed to revive Edinburgh’s local shops and communities

Edinburgh's high streets need a post-pandemic boost.

If elected in May, the Scottish Liberal Democrats will overhaul the business rates system to help Edinburgh’s local shops compete with online retailers and revive local communities. Lockdown has hit an already struggling retail sector hard with Edinburgh losing its Frasers and Debenhams stores and the future of the iconic Jenners department store also in doubt.

“Local shops and high streets are an important part of our communities. They provide meeting points and social opportunities, as well as access to goods and services for those who cannot, or choose not to shop online,” said Fraser Graham, Liberal Democrat candidate for Edinburgh Pentlands.

"Making sensible changes to the tax system to take the burden off small businesses and create a more level playing field with online competitors is a no-brainer – it’s something the SNP should have done years ago. We must Put Recovery First.”

Liberal Democrat proposals would make rates payable by the landowner rather than the business based there and would cut bills for most properties around the high streets. Focusing the charges on land values would see rises for developers "land banking" - buying up sites without developing them, leaving plots under-used or empty – and would avoid penalising businesses that improve their properties, install renewables or which have made their customers safer with coronavirus measures.

“The pandemic may have been good for Amazon but it's been devastating for the local businesses that are at the heart of our local communities,” Fraser said. “Reforming business rates will ensure that online retailers and big developers pay their fair share.”

“We will also give local authorities control of the level of tax and reliefs in their area to foster new partnerships between councils and local business, and boost local democracy.”

Read more about the Scottish Liberal Democrats plans to Put Recovery First in our manifesto for Holyrood 2021.

Find out how to maximise your Lib Dem vote for tax breaks for small businesses.

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