Comment: Business rates plans are baffling

Council-run leisure centres like Meadowbank face huge business rates bills
Council-run leisure centres like Meadowbank face huge business rates bills
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Former RBS chairman Ken Barclay’s review of Scotland’s business rates will leave many people scratching their heads.

Scrapping rates for nurseries, as he is proposing, makes a lot of sense. Child care can be enormously expensive and the high cost stops many parents from returning to work when they would like to do so.

So cutting business rates in this instance helps hard-pressed families to get ahead - but also benefits us all as taxpayers. Working parents pay more in taxes and claim less in benefits. It makes no sense for anyone to have a tax sytem that in effect penalises people who want to work.

So far so good. But while Mr Barclays suggests giving with the one hand he is recommending the Scottish Government take with the other.

Under his proposals, Edinburgh Leisure and East Lothian’s Enjoy Leisure would be clobbered with huge tax bills, in an effort to put these council-run leisure facilities on a “level playing field” with private gyms and sports clubs.

The net effect will be to drain more money out of public leisure facilities, keeping fit and healthy will cost more. Leisures centres may even have to cut their hours. Where’s the sense in that?