A taxing time for small businesses in Scotland

Last week Jeremy Purvis MSP led the attack in the Scottish Parliament against the government’s proposed increased levy on large retail outlets – often referred to as the “Tesco tax”.

This proposed levy would have raised £30million to help the government deal with the horrendous economic circumstances successive Westminster governments have created for us.

Mr Purvis and others claimed that the proposed small increase in business rates represented a “tax on jobs”, as though it would represent an insuperable burden on large retailers who would turn their backs on Scotland, shedding employees by the thousand.

The levy, in fact, would do no more than bring the level of business rates paid by the large retailers to the same level as they currently pay in England. With the levy they would still pay less in Scotland than they do in London. Has anyone noticed the collapse of the Tesco chain south of the border? The mass exodus of Asda and Sainsbury’s stores from London? Neither have I.

There is no threat to jobs in the “Tesco tax”. Tesco could pay off its share in less than two hours of trading. There is, however, a continuing threat to the viability and survival of small businesses in this country, who are helped enormously by the Scottish Government’s small business bonus which keeps their business rates low or even non-existent. This is the kind of measure John Swinney needs more money in the kitty to help to protect.

Strongly supporting the proposal, Colin Borland of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has appealed for a “level playing field” over business rates. Small business pay a much higher proportion of their turnover in rates than big supermarkets do, and rarely benefit from the free parking and other benefits that large supermarkets enjoy.

Seventy-four per cent of FSB members backed the proposed levy in a recent poll. How disappointing therefore to see Mr Purvis and his Tory and Labour allies in the Scottish parliament leading the charge against it. Patrick Harvie of the Greens was angry that the measure was being attacked by beneficiaries of the big supermarkets.

The Liberal Democrats have received £35,564 from Tesco, the Tories £30,000 from Selfridges and Labour receives millions from Sainsbury’s.

It would be a great shame if this was how politics was now being conducted in Scotland. I think it is just another major error of judgement on the part of Mr Purvis and his allies.

Previously they turned their back on those in health, police, pubs and clubs to destroy minimum pricing for alcohol. They now kick small businesses in the teeth in order to do the bidding of the large supermarkets and, as a bonus, deny the Scottish government vital funds to protect our economy at the same time.

Eric Falconer

High Road