The Scottish Government has a “hole in its budget and has chosen the retail sector to fill it”, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)

The SRC has again lambasted the Scottish Government for its proposal to impose a levy on supermarkets, after it met with Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney yesterday.

The SRC also said it is “disappointed” that a full impact assessment of the tax, revealed in the Scottish Government’s draft Budget, is being ruled out.

Representatives from key store groups including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and The Co-op have voiced their concerns over the new tax, which applies to large retailers that sell alcohol and tobacco.

SRC director of communications Jane Bevis said: “John Swinney was open in answering a number of our questions in his meeting with us, but that has only served to expose the true motives behind this tax proposal.

“The Scottish Government has a hole in its local authority budget and has chosen the retail sector to fill it, simply because supermarkets are profitable businesses.

“The public health justification for this levy is completely unfounded. The Scottish Government clearly has no intention of changing consumer behaviour by involving the wider alcohol and tobacco supply chain.

“The only justification offered for this tax proposal is the mistaken assumption that supermarkets can afford it. Any business which operates in Scotland with any degree of success must fear being targeted in the same way in future. And that fear will do immeasurable damage to investment and job creation in Scotland.”

Swinney said:  “In the Spending Review we announced plans to introduce the Public Health Levy, which will only affect the very largest retailers in Scotland. 

“We estimate the Levy will raise £30m in 2012-13, equivalent to just 0.1% of retail turnover in Scotland.

“Given the significant cuts from Westminster this will be used to contribute towards the preventative spend measures that will be taken forward jointly with the Scottish Government, Local Authorities, the NHS and the Third Sector.

“I met with the Scottish Retail Consortium and a range of their members to discuss the proposals. I confirmed that I intend to lay legislation that will set out full details of the levy in the New Year. I also confirmed that the supplement will apply at a set rate across all retail properties with a rateable value of over £300,000 and will only impact on a very small number of large retailers.

“The draft budget is a consultation document and we welcome all contributions on these proposals and will continue our engagement with retailers on taking our plans forward.”