On May 14, the Prime Minister said that a Scottish ’no’ vote would open the way for the transfer of more powers to Edinburgh. The PRA has been adapting quickly to the new challenges that have arisen through the substantial powers that have already been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and to the Regional Assemblies representing Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, we have established a Regional Committee with local retailers. PRA was invited to attend an Energy Select Committee hearing at Stormont last October to review the issue of supermarket pricing. Four members of the new PRA Committee were present to provide in-depth local market information. The NI Assembly is responsible for business rates and has decided to press ahead with a 2015 Revaluation Scheme (unlike all other home countries that have deferred the Revaluation until 2017) as their last was in 2000.
We convened a special Committee meeting in February to review the draft business rate proposals for petrol filling stations being drawn up by Land & Property Services on behalf of the Minister of Finance and Personnel. Recently PRA has been invited to participate in an Inquiry being conducted by the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly into cross-border smuggling (fuels and tobacco).
In Scotland, we have established a Regional Committee which also has local retailers representing the main brands. PRA was invited to present to Fergus Ewing MSP Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism at Parliament in April. The Minister has offered to attend our next committee meeting in the autumn. Good contact has also been established with the Scottish Assessors Association to understand their plans for business rates assessments with an informal presentation plus Q&A session at our inaugural meeting this spring. PRA has also been lobbying against proposals for plain packaging of tobacco products.
In Wales PRA has met Edwina Hart, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport at the Welsh Assembly to raise a number of concerns facing the industry.
The PRA has embraced devolution in a positive manner with great support from local retailers and we continue to need the support of all independent retailers in the future.