Ballater Business Association demanding answers on rates

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Members of Ballater Business Association (BBA) have reiterated their demands for a meeting with First Minister Alex Salmond over soaring business rates in the village.

BBA chairman and owner of Deeside Books in Ballater, Bryn Wayte, this week sent a letter to Mr Salmond, on behalf of the association.

Businesses in the Royal Deeside village demanded action from the government as they struggled to cope with rates rises after an overhaul of the system. They warned many companies had been left much worse off by the re-valuation, which came into force in April last year, leaving some with increases of between 80% and 140%.

In his letter, Mr Wayte says Mr Salmond had “no excuse” for not meeting members of BBA because his constituency “is in the other half of our shire.”

He said he felt the whole business rating system should be replaced “with a more rational approach...not based on rents, but on revenue” and wants Mr Salmond to answer their questions face-to-face.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said a letter had been received and would be replied to in due course.

Mr Wayte said they had tried unsuccessfully to arrange a meeting with West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MSP Dennis Robertson, but had been unable to because no constituency office was available. Mr Wayte called this a “stalling tactic by the SNP” and said “in the meantime, some of the small businesses in Ballater, including my own, are still being heavily penalised by the current business rating system that your government is operating.”

MSP Dennis Robertson said: “What Mr Wayte seems to ignore is that I have met him, as during my campaign I made a point of going to his shop and have had a meeting with him. He made his points very forcefully and I listened.

“It was August before he contacted me directly and at that time it was during recess, but he was advised that because we didn’t have a constituency office, that I was spending a fair bit of my time in Edinburgh but I would be more than happy to see him in Edinburgh.

“When I contacted John Swinney (Cabinet Secretary for Finance), he felt it would be advisable to have a meeting after he had come out of the draft budget as it would have been pointless to have had a meeting when he could make no comments.”

Mr Robertson said he was due to meet Mr Swinney this week and the issue of Ballater’s business rates was top of the agenda.

“As soon as I’ve met with John, I’ll be more than happy to report back to Mr Wayte with a written statement by the end of this month,” said Mr Robertson.