MSP in call for rates shake-up to help traders

John Lamont MSP
John Lamont MSP

Local MSP John Lamont is calling for major reform to business rates in order to improve the High Street.

As part of a campaign run by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), he will visit local businesses in Hawick over the summer months to discuss the regeneration of the High Street.

The Connecting with your Constituency campaign will involve MSPs taking a day to promote the work of STP
and the need to support the regeneration of Scotland’s towns.

Ahead of the visits, Mr Lamont has called for the current business rates regime to be replaced with one based on turnover or the profit of a business, rather than the current system based on property value.

He is also calling for Scottish Borders Council to be allowed to implement tax exemption schemes, which would enable them to designate the centre of Hawick as a tax-free zone in an effort to encourage regeneration.

The Tory member said: “I’m very happy to support Scotland’s Towns Partnership campaign this summer. The STP do good work supporting businesses and local groups’ work towards the regeneration of our town centres.

“Hawick High Street continues to struggle with many premises remaining vacant. It’s bad for the local economy, it’s bad for the image of the town and it’s bad for jobs to have empty shops in the town.”

“But this crisis hasn’t come out of the blue – and I’m becoming increasingly frustrated because power over business rates is completely devolved, yet the Scottish Government refuses to take meaningful action.”

Applauding Mr Lamont’s move, local councillor George Turnbull said: “The present rating system is not fit for purpose and is totally outdated. The proposal based on turnover and/or profit would cater for the wide range of businesses and the huge variation in mark-up and profit retention.

“It is vital that the town centre gets a transfusion to recover and occupy as many shops as possible and it may be that relaxation on planning policy will play a big part of the recovery as well. Properties above street level urgently need to be brought back into housing stock and have more people living in the town centre and, in turn, increase the footfall.”