Ruth Davidson had asked the First Minister why some business rates were being increased by over 60%. She also went on to mention the Score Group who will be required to pay an extra £120,000 in rates.
Ruth Davisdson addressed the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon:
Yesterday, we spoke to another engineering firm, Score Group, which is based in Peterhead. It is a fantastic firm that runs the largest private apprenticeship programme anywhere in the country, but it has now discovered that it will have to pay an extra £120,000 come April, and it fears that it will have to turn apprentices away as a result. Yesterday, its managing director, Conrad Ritchie, told us:
“We have some of the highest rates here and this increase will price many businesses out of the markets they compete in locally, nationally or worldwide.”
The company’s chamber of commerce says that that will
“drive firms which have managed to stay afloat into insolvency or at best lead to further job losses.”
That is the reality. What action will the First Minister consider to help out businesses such as Score Group?
The First Minister replied:
However, the process that Ruth Davidson cites is a revaluation that is being carried out by independent assessors. The kind of increases that Ruth Davidson mentioned are tied to increases in the rateable value of premises. I have already outlined the process. Draft valuations have been published and final valuations will be published later this year, but all businesses have until September to submit appeals if they think that their valuation is wrong.
At the end of the day SNP MP Christina McKelvie (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) raised a point of order:
Earlier today, Ruth Davidson used First Minister’s question time to raise an individual business rates case on behalf of the Score Group. It is my understanding that that company and its chairman have given considerable support to a number of political causes that are close to Ruth Davidson’s heart, including the better together campaign and Scotland in Union.
Presiding Officer, will you give members guidance on whether it is appropriate for Ruth Davidson to use the weekly opportunity to hold the First Minister to account to advance the cause of her Tory cronies and, crucially, to do so while not declaring any interest?
The Presiding Officer was having none of it and replied:
The political allegiance or otherwise of any organisation is certainly not a matter for me to rule on. That is not a point of order. With that, I suggest that I bring the meeting to a close.