MP highlights “damaging” impact of rates rises on high street

Gordon MP Colin Clark
Gordon MP Colin Clark

Gordon MP Colin Clark has highlighted the “damaging” impact that business rates rises are having on the Scottish high street.

Mr Clark had his say during an urgent question session in the House of Commons yesterday on Marks and Spencer's (M&S) plans to close stores across the UK.

SNP MPs had attached the retail giant for “letting down” Scotland’s High Street.

However, in a question to BEIS Minister Clare Perry, Mr Clark pointed out that the SNP government’s “punitive” rates rises were having a negative impact on the high street.

Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay was forced into a package of support for the local economy in the north-east after businesses and politicians campaigned against hikes in bills of up to 300%.

Mr Clark said: “The SNP Westminster group railed against Marks and Spencer for letting our town centres down, but they should be looking a little closer to home.

“Nicola Sturgeon's government has placed a huge burden on my area of the north east of Scotland with punitive business rates hikes, this is having a damaging impact on our high street.

“We are very lucky in Gordon to have three M&S stores that raise the profile and increase footfall wherever they set up.

“Retailing is changing and the UK Government must look at any unfair advantage online retailers are gaining over high street outlets on VAT or other taxes.

“Equally, the Scottish Government should reconsider its approach to business taxation north of the border.”

In response to Mr Clark’s question, asked amid heckling from the SNP benches, Ms Perry said: “This vigorous exchange points to the responsibility that we all bear—Westminster, national and local governments—for supporting our high streets and not using short-term measures, particularly tax-raising measures, that might further drive out the precious high street stores that we are all so interested in protecting.”