Retailers will meet with Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead this morning as they tackle the proposed levy to increase business rates for large retailers of alcohol and tobacco in Scotland.

At a meeting of the Scottish Grocery Retailers’ Forum in Edinburgh - arranged “some time ago” by the Scottish Government – retailers will press the secretary over the levy, which was revealed in the Scotland Budget last week.

Representatives from key store groups including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and The Co-op, as well as Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), CBI Scotland, the Scottish Grocers Federation and the Scottish Chamber of Commerce, are expected to be at the meeting.

Led by the SRC, retailers have slammed the government for its proposal to levy alcohol and tobacco-selling stores that have a rateable value of £300,000 or over, meaning the major food retailers will be most affected. The SRC believes the tax could be imposed in just six months’ time.

SRC has described the proposed levy as an unfair stealth tax “in the guise of a public health levy”.

The retailers are seeking clarity from the minister on which businesses will be affected, how the remainder of the consultation process will be conducted, what the revenue will be used for and when it will come into effect.

SRC director Ian Shearer said: “There are many questions which retailers need answering urgently before they can assess the full impact of the new tax, which we are told is taking effect in just six months’ time.

“Retailers have got an excellent track record on helping the Scottish Government on the economy, investment and jobs, and delivering its objectives across a wide range of policy areas.

“But it’s difficult to work in partnership with a Government which springs surprises with £110m bills attached.”  

The Scottish Governenment has estimated it will make £110m in the first three years of imposing the levy.