Jackie Baillie and Auchengeoch reservoir above Glen Fruin. Picture by Bill Heaney
By Democrat reporter
Scottish Labour’s Finance spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, is today making an urgent call on the Scottish Government to do better by Scottish businesses with the level of support they are offering on water charges during the COVID-19 crisis.
And to ensure that Scottish businesses are treated as well as their English counterparts.
Ms Baillie’s call follows recognition that businesses in Scotland are being treated poorly in comparison with businesses in England, and that a £60 million business support package trumpeted by the Scottish Government in a press release in late March is actually being paid for by Scottish businesses themselves.
Scottish Labour deputy leader and finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Businesses in my constituency and that of every other MSP are being very seriously affected by COVID19 and are under severe financial strain. It is vital that they are supported and that they receive the immediate help that businesses in England are getting.
“In England businesses affected by lockdown can have their premises declared temporarily vacant and then all their water charges are immediately lifted. In Scotland many businesses in exactly the same circumstances as their English counterparts will continue to have to pay their standing charges or a large proportion of them in a complex scheme rushed through by the water regulator.
“This can’t be right. All businesses in the UK are fighting back against the same virus and the economic costs are the same. Businesses in Scotland should not be any worse off in how they have their immediate costs relieved.
“To add to the concerns the £60 million relief scheme recently announced by the Scottish Government on business water charge relief is in fact going to be paid for by businesses themselves after the COVID19 lockdown is over. The relief is only a temporary deferral of charges.
“I have tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions to provide maximum transparency from the Scottish Government on the role they are playing and any money they are actually making available to businesses for water charges.
“It must be worrying for the Scottish Government that some stakeholders consulted on the issues have accused the water regulator of taking actions that were not consistent with ethical business practises in what it has done. It is also very regrettable that the regulator appears not to have consulted the recognised organisations in Scotland that represent businesses.
“When the Scottish Government do the right thing, Labour will support them, but as a responsible opposition we also need to push them when we believe they could do more.”
Today’s call from Jackie Baillie follows her recent intervention to urge the Scottish Government to stop the water regulator forcing above inflation increases on households and businesses for many years to come.