By Scott Donaldson, president of IAAS

It’s a worrying time for the livestock market sector with running costs seeming to be continually on the rise.

Rising business rates in particular are a constant bugbear and it seems that the introduction of the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill currently being debated at Holyrood will do little to alleviate this. Rising rates simply add to an already stretched livestock trade placing a huge financial burden on the industry.

Non-domestic rates, commonly known as business rates, apply to all our marts throughout Scotland. There is currently a legal requirement to hold a revaluation of commercial properties for NDR purposes every five years.

For marts, the valuation is based on gross commission. The Institute has long argued that the logic and basis of the valuation methodology for auction marts is flawed because the methodology was based on English rental values. However, little consideration seems to have been given to how a transition to a Scottish system will work, or be implemented.

Any rise in business rates is a real threat to the sustainability of our industry at a time when our members – along with the wider agricultural industry – face challenges on a number of different fronts. Collectively, we work hard to ensure the ring is the best place to sell stock to ensure the fairest price on the day. Buying and selling through the ring is the only transparent way to secure the best price. The system works well for everyone, providing choice and flexibility, as well as offering the most up-to-date transparent market pricing.

Our members are committed to supporting Scotland’s farmers in the fairest possible way but there is absolutely no doubt that hikes in business rates will ultimately filter down to hit rural communities. That will happen in two ways – putting vulnerable smaller markets at risk by raising costs and threatening the huge number of jobs that the livestock market sector delivers across Scotland.

Of particular significance, we know that when small markets close, as some have done in recent years, it leads to the decline of livestock farming in the local area.

Our ask is clear – our politicians need to consider the impact on rural Scotland of any changes to business rates. At IAAS, we will wait and see, but not hesitate to speak out on behalf of members and their communities put at risk.