Business rates hike: “We need action”

Sheila Howarth, owner of the Belvedere Hotel in Stonehaven.

Sheila Howarth, owner of the Belvedere Hotel in Stonehaven.

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More than 2,500 people have signed an online petition in recent days objecting to massive increases to business rates affecting companies in the North East of Scotland.

Hoteliers in Stonehaven held an emergency meeting last week after it was revealed that business rates, set by the Scottish Government - are set to rise from April 1. Some hotels and other businesses in the town are facing more than a 100% increase in the annual amount they are expected to pay.

Sheila Howarth, owner of the Belvedere Hotel on Evan Street, told the Leader that this, coupled with the oil downturn affecting custom, could lead to the closure of many of the town’s hotels, which in turn will have a devastating effect on tourism.

The petition was set up by Scottish Conservative MSP Ross Thomson, however in a visit to Aberdeenlast Friday, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said that the Scottish Government will not freeze the rates.

Mrs Howarth said that, despite receiving the backing and support of other local businesses, as well as the local MSP and MP, they are still facing the crippling rises in just two months time.

She said: “We have had a lot of support verbally, but we need action. Freezing the rates will not help in the long-term, as the whole system needs to be re-evaluated. However, the rates should be frozen until that can be done.

“The buck stops with the Scottish Government, and we need to know what they are going to do to help the North East.”