Non-domestic rates: Wightman calls for proper scrutiny

Andy Wightman MSP, Local Government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, will this week prompt a debate at Holyrood's Local Government Committee about the lack of scrutiny of Non-Domestic Rates, which raise almost £3billion a year for council services.

At Wednesday’s committee, Andy will move a motion to annul the Non-Domestic Rate (Scotland) Order 2017 (SSI 2017/8).

In 1988, the Conservative Government removed non-domestic rate setting from councils and centralised it in the hands of ministers. This continued under devolution and means that non-domestic tax rates are set by Scottish Ministers with little scrutiny and no vote - unless an MSP forces one.

In 17 years of devolution the rate of Scotland’s second highest-yielding tax has never been voted on by the full Chamber and it has been ten years since the rate was voted on by a committee.

Andy Wightman, Local Government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, said:

"Non-domestic rates generate almost £3billion a year for council services and are the second highest-yielding tax set by Scottish Ministers after Income Tax, yet there is almost no public scrutiny. Local councils are being denied control over what should be part of their economic tool kit. It's time to shed light on how and where business rates are decided.

“In particular, it is bizarre to note that the only justification for the 1.8p cut next year in the non-domestic rate is to bring it into line with England. What is the point of having control over taxation if Ministers just copy Tory policy in Westminster?

"It's vital that we have greater scrutiny over non-domestic rates and ensure they are set in a fair way that meets local needs. The Scottish Greens believe that rather than being set centrally by Government Ministers and distributed to councils, local authorities should set half of the rate, so they can respond to local circumstances such as changes in property values."