By Daniel Hunter
A bid to scrap the Scottish supermarket levy at this Wednesday's meeting of the Local Government Committee gives MSPs a chance to stop a flawed tax which would damage Scotland's business reputation and has not been adequately scrutinised.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) is welcoming a motion to annul the Public Health Levy which has been lodged by Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell.
The tax would take an additional £95 million over 3 years from a few major retailers, adding over 20 per cent to the existing large business rates of 240 stores, and give it to local government. Although described as a health measure, the money is not directed towards specific health initiatives and its impact on public health is not assessed.
The new supplement to the business rates system has been opposed by a wide range of organisations including Scottish Chambers of Commerce, CBI Scotland and the shopworkers' union Usdaw.
"The supermarket tax sets alarming precedents for business and investors as a whole," Ian Shearer, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said.
"At relatively short notice it reduces Scotland's competitiveness and fiscal certainty, without a proper impact assessment. Whilst presented as a health measure it is effectively a discriminatory revenue raid on the profitability of a handful of companies in just one sector.
"Major new types of taxation should always be given the maximum degree of parliamentary scrutiny but this procedure for secondary regulations does not allow the flaws and impacts to be fully assessed and debated.
"Despite some welcome recent concessions, the levy remains ill-devised and inconsistent with the Government's position on other taxes, on better regulation and the need to stimulate growth. The motion to annul it offers MSPs a chance to avert this damaging measure. Jobs and the Scottish economy are better served by working with our largest employers rather than staging punitive tax raids in the toughest times for many years."
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