A LARGS man has become the latest local business owner to push for more to be done to help local firms struggling with rising costs.

Stewart Currie, 61, who owns The Bagel Basket in Main Street, told the News that the business is having to pay out £50,000 a year in VAT and business rates before even opening the doors.

He also says staff wages have "spiralled".

Mr Currie's plea comes after concerns were raised by several local businesses earlier this year over the fixed costs facing independent firms.

Business owners and opposition North Ayrshire politicians previously criticised the decision not to continue the Scottish Government's small business rates relief programme into 2023-24.

The closure of several Largs businesses in recent months prompted concerned residents to organise a public meeting in March to discuss ways of giving the local economy a boost.

Mr Currie told the News: "The VAT in the EU is between 8-10 per cent, and they have 10 good months of the year to get the business through the doors. We get what is left when it comes to the weather.

"Our VAT is 20 per cent, and then you have the business rates. We should be getting 75 per cent business rates relief which for our cafe is worth £804 a month.

"The Scottish government says the NHS needs it more. What they don't understand is that it is business taxes that pay their salaries, and without the business taxes then the country is in dire straits.

"Between the business rates and VAT, it is costing us at least £50,000 a year It makes it important that we are as busy as we can regularly to break even.

"Between last April and this April, over a 12 month period, wages have gone up 23 per cent. That is a lot of money for a small business to find.

"Don't get me wrong: our staff are worth it. We have a great full time staff.

"All we need is a level playing field. 

"Look at the cafe chain Caffe Nero, who have not paid corporation tax in 14 years. We are five figures. And then you have wee ladies who come down from Johnstone who are surprised at the price of a roll and sausage and I have to say 'welcome to Largs'.

"It is heavy duty but it is what we have to get through."

Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson accused the UK Government of using small businesses as an easy source of revenue.

He said: "With inflation still stubbornly high and the ongoing impacts of Brexit and Covid-19, there’s rarely been a more difficult time to be running a small business.

"The UK Government is effectively using small and micro businesses as cash cows to boost Treasury coffers."

However, Conservative councillor Tom Marshall laid the blame at the Scottish Government's door.

He said: "Obviously, Kenneth Gibson is trying to deflect from the decision not to pass on the Barnet consequential of 75 per cent reduction in non-domestic rates to Scottish businesses.

"Rather than the UK Government penalising smaller businesses it is the Scottish Government that is doing so."

A Scottish Government spokesperson previously said: “The Scottish Government will always be open and honest with the public about the choices it has made.

“There have been calls to replicate non-domestic rates retail, hospitality and leisure relief available to businesses in England.

"While Scottish Ministers are sympathetic to these calls, doing so would have meant that the Scottish Government could not provide the NHS, schools, or emergency services with the funding they require.

“The Scottish Government will continue to do all it can to support businesses. In 2024-25, the poundage will be frozen, delivering the lowest poundage rate in the UK for the sixth year in a row.

"The Small Business Bonus Scheme offering up to 100 per cent relief from non-domestic rates will be maintained and 100 per cent rates relief will be available for hospitality businesses in island communities, capped at £110,000 per ratepayer.”