Scotland business

Ministers confirm large store health levy to end in 2015

wine for sale in supermarket
Image caption Retailers claimed the Large Retailer Levy added a significant amount to the business rates bill for about 240 larger outlets

An extra business rates levy on larger shops selling alcohol and tobacco will end in 2015, Scottish ministers have confirmed.

The news was welcomed by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), which opposed the tax.

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney told SRC representatives the programme would be concluded after three years.

However, the Scottish government stressed it never meant to continue it beyond 2015.

The levy was aimed at larger retailers selling alcohol and tobacco, mainly supermarkets, to make them contribute to public health measures.

It is expected to raise a total of about £95m over the three years.

Retailers said that meant about 240 stores faced a business rates bill 28% higher than the equivalent store south of the border.

'Final year'

A Scottish government statement said it had made it clear the levy "would last for one spending review period only and that 2014-15 would be the final year".

It added: "That has always been the position and is clearly set out in legislation.

"The Scottish government offers the most competitive business rates in the UK through our commitment to match UK rates.

"With over 92,000 premises benefiting from the small business bonus scheme and we have recently announced an extension to the scheme to help a further 4,000 business premises."

'Iniquitous tax'

SRC director David Lonsdale argued the Large Retailer Levy had "been a blot on the Scottish government's claims to have the most competitive business rates regime in the UK".

He said: "It has been an unprecedented and iniquitous tax which has targeted one part of a single sector and has acted as disincentive to invest in Scottish communities, leaving Scotland at a competitive disadvantage."

"The SRC has campaigned tirelessly to end the levy and are delighted that the cabinet secretary has listened to our arguments and committed to neither extend nor replace the tax after 2015."

He added: "John Swinney has sent out a positive signal that his government supports a favourable business environment within which the retail sector can continue to invest and grow in Scotland.

"We look forward to continuing to work constructively with him on our campaign to reform the business rates system as a whole."

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