CASH coming to Scotland from Westminster will go to the NHS, a meeting in Largs has heard - and not to provide rates relief to help shops at risk of closure.

Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson explained the Scottish Government's position at a meeting of Largs Community Council.

The town has seen a raft of closures in recent weeks, including Buena Onda restaurant, Cafe Renard, Jenny's Wardrobe, Over the Moon, Opticare, and The Chef's Eye.

Several business owners, including butcher Scott Paton and Karen Forret from Wilkie's, have called for the government to reintroduce a rates relief system for small firms - a call also made by North Coast Conservative councillor Tom Marshall at a recent North Ayrshire Council meeting.

Mr Gibson, the constituency MSP for Cunninghame North, told the community council: 

"Non-domestic rates are a major part of the Scottish Parliament's income. 

"Up to the rateable value of £15,000, businesses do not pay any rates at all. There is a sliding scale over and above that.

"For the islands it is different; they don't have to pay any rates up to £110,000 in hospitality.

"A lot of the Largs business closures are sadly because of the cost of living crisis.

"A lot of the shops that sell goods are also seeing that shopping habits have changed because of the pandemic, and people now shop online.

"There has been a slight increase in shopfall across Scotland but if you look at the figures now, the UK is now in recession, so that is going to have an impact."

The Scottish Government previously operated a business rates relief scheme - based on consequentials from the Barnett Formula of Scottish funding from Westminster - for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

That scheme resulted in rebates of £463,606 for the sector in North Ayrshire during the 2022-23 financial year. But it was not repeated in 2023-24.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: MSP Kenneth GibsonMSP Kenneth Gibson (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Gibson said: "People are listening. The reality is that there are pressures right across the whole system for everything.

"The NHS only got a £10.89m Barnett consequential so in England they are having a reduction in budgets to the NHS.

"It has been revealed that people in England having to wait for A&E is 19 times higher than it was before the pandemic.

"We have taken a political decision that with the £230m Barnett consequential we are putting these funds into the NHS.

"We could have put it into non-domestic rates if we wanted, but we thought that given the fact we need to reduce the number of people on waiting lists, and the fact we need to make sure that our NHS is continuing to deliver, that that was a higher priority.

"It is all about priorities and none of the other political parties have come up with an alternative budget."

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

Councillor Marshall told the same meeting his motion on rates relief, asking the Scottish government to give small businesses a 75 per cent rebate, had yet to receive an answer.

Mr Gibson, who is also chair of the finance committee at the Scottish Parliament committee, said: "In Scotland, all businesses up to £15,000 rateable value will continue to be rates free, which is more than half of all rateable properties in Scotland. 

"The non-domestic rates relief for the financial year starting on April 1 will be £685 million per year overall, but we have taken a political decision to re-direct the Barnett consequential funding to the NHS."