The publication of the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill confirms the Scottish Government’s intention to reintroduce non-domestic rates for shoots in Scotland.
This will mean that around 70% of the land of Scotland, currently influenced by shooting, will lose its relief from this taxation, introduced in 1995.
This taxation, planned to be introduced in April 2017, could affect the viability of many small rural businesses, affect employment and associated conservation management as well as rural tourism. The Scottish Government’s intention was to raise £10 million per annum from sporting rates to fund further community land ownership. However, the Bill’s Financial Memorandum estimates that this figure could actually be closer to £4 million and could be even lower after exemption under the Small Business Bonus Scheme. Other key land management activities such as farming and forestry will continue to benefit from relief from non-domestic rates.
The Bill also contains new powers with respect to deer management planning and strengthening of the powers that allow Government to insist on deer management.
Shooting and deer stalking currently contribute £200 million per annum to Scotland’s rural economy and this represents an important economic input to remote areas and in the autumn and winter months when other activities have declined.
Dr Colin Shedden, director of BASC Scotland, said: “Country sports tourism is a key economic driver in rural Scotland and it would be regrettable if the reintroduction of non-domestic rates was to disadvantage Scotland as a world-class destination. We have already asked the Minister to undertake research and a comprehensive impact assessment prior to proceeding with the reintroduction of sporting rates and note that while there is an estimate of annual liability of £4 million there is no estimate on the costs to Local Authorities to collect this income. We will also argue strongly that shoots that manage their land in a sustainable manner should be eligible for even further rates relief.”
Alan Balfour, chairman of BASC’s Scottish Committee, said: “The economic and environmental significance of shooting and stalking in Scotland cannot be ignored. Scotland is often the destination of choice for shooters visiting from elsewhere in the UK and from abroad. The reintroduction of business rates, after they were scrapped in 1995, would be a step backwards.”
“This could affect the many ordinary Scots and tourists who enjoy shooting and stalking and the hotels, restaurants and other businesses which depend on the sector for their livelihoods.”
For more information, contact Dr Colin Shedden on 01350 723226.