"Antibiotics are to infections as fire extinguishers are to fire" is a quote I read recently amongst the raft of commentary on the COVID-19 outbreak.  

Acknowledging the critical need to protect the wellbeing of our people, many business owners (like us) will also be looking for the "fire extinguishers" which will be vital in supporting the wellbeing of their businesses in the coming weeks. 

In that regard, the Scottish Government's recent announcement of business rates relief will be welcomed by many. But we have yet to see the detail. Is the estimated £320million rates relief package "real" money going back into business, or simply a moratorium on changes which would have come into effect in April? What about caps linked to state aid regulations?  

For now, the details are that during the 2020-21 financial year there will be —

  • a 75% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from 1 April 2020
  • an £80million fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of COVID-19
  • 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below inflation uplift in the poundage from 1 April 2020
  • a fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from 1 April 2020

The Scottish finance secretary will also write to all local authorities urging them to respond positively to requests from rate payers for payment deferrals for a fixed period.

Will this be enough?   

On the worst case scenarios being analysed by many, probably not. But every little helps, particularly if this is the start of other initiatives to keep business fires burning.  How many more fire extinguishers businesses will need is going to become clear very quickly.