Paul Wheelhouse accuses John Lamont of hypocrisy over business rates

editorial image

A Borders MSP has accused a rival of hypocrisy over comments he made on business rates.

Paul Wheelhouse, SNP South of Scotland MSP, has responded to John Lamont’s statement in The Southern’s sister paper The Hawick News last month on the state of Hawick’s High Street.

Mr Lamont said in June: “I have raised these concerns with SNP Finance Minister Mr Swinney, to make him aware of the pressure his business rates are putting on small businesses in our area.

“With the Small Business Bonus only helping some of the shops, the onus is now on the SNP to act in order to help support them and ensure we don’t see even more empty shops in Hawick.”

But Mr Wheelhouse said the Conservative had voted against empty property tax relief being cut.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “Like all too many shops on Hawick High Street, John Lamont’s rhetoric is empty.

“He has once again been caught red-handed saying one thing to the public in Hawick while supporting his colleagues’ opposition to the Scottish Government taking real action to support business in Parliament.

“I am in no doubt that measures put in place by the Scottish Government to assist businesses in Hawick will be of benefit in the medium to long term.

“Furthermore, the most recent figures available show the Small Business Bonus (SBS) Scheme provided rates relief to the tune of £13.7 million for the Scottish Borders between 2008-2011, and I know for a fact how helpful this has been for many existing businesses in Hawick.

“The SBS, which remains the most generous rates relief package anywhere in the UK, is an initiative that has been protected for the lifetime of this Parliament thanks to the Scottish Government, despite the Tories, including Mr Lamont, and other opposition politicians voting against the Scottish Government’s budget containing provisions to continue the scheme through the current spending review period. Something further Mr Lamont chooses not to mention.”