Tory election manifesto: Ignites political fuse paper in Scottish small-hydro power business rates row: Re-affirms wind power for Scotland’s islands, and pledges more shale gas

The Conservative party plans to ‘develop the shale (onshore gas exploration) industry in Britain‘ as part of its UK election manifesto if it is re-elected as the largest party in the UK parliament after the Westminster elections next month.

Pledging to ‘ensure industry and businesses have access to reliable, cheap and clean power’ the Tories also vow to set up a new shale environmental regulator and to treat non-fracking drilling as ‘permitted development’ (in England).

And a new Tory government at Westminster plans to change the proposed shale wealth fund so that a greater percentage of tax revenues from shale gas directly benefit the communities that host the extraction sites south of the Border. 

In Scotland, there has been a ‘temporary’ moratorium on onshore oil and gas exploration since January 2015. The SNP-led Scot-Government intend to hold a binding debate on a motion to make this a permanent ban in Holyrood in the Autumn.

Where the Tory manifesto is relevant to the Scottish renewable energy sector is where the party pledges itself ‘against more large-scale onshore wind power for England – while maintaining its position as a ‘global leader in offshore wind and development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland – where they directly benefit local communities’.

The Conservatives also included a plan to increase exports from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England by resurrecting the Board of Trade (which was abolished after more than 150 years by the Tory-led coalition government in the previous parliament.

Computer generated image of how the Western Isles might look in future
Computer generated image of how the Western Isles might look in future

‘Reform business rates, with more frequent revaluations’

While this Tory pledge strictly refers only to property in England, the Scottish Valuers closely follow the timing, bandings and methodology from south of the Border.

After howls of protest from small-scale Scottish hydro energy companies over Scots business rates – with increases of up to 600% – the Scot-Govt applied a temporary ‘sticking plaster’ to the problem, with an interim rates relief package this spring.

This is unfinished business for the hydro energy sector – not least because progress in the five-year long appeal test-case against (allegedly) unfair Scottish business rates (the bands) and the process varies between ‘dead stop’ and ‘tortoise speed’.

 

Scottish surveyors team-up to offer ‘no win no fee’ in business rates appeals

Perth-based business consultancy the MDG Group has teamed up with chartered surveyor firm Smart & Co to offer an added value service to their clients.

This new partnership offers businesses (such as Scottish small-hydro owners) the chance to appeal their Rateable Value on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, with the client being charged a percentage of the savings in the event of a win.  

Businesses who have received their new Rateable Value (RV) have the right of appeal up until 30 Sept 2017.

Graeme Duncan of Smart & Co is ‘a gamekeeper turned poacher’ in the rating world – having worked as a valuer with the Tayside Assessor setting Rateable Values before becoming a private practice commercial surveyor specialising in business rates appeals

He was involved in hundreds of appeals during the 2005 and 2010 revaluations with many high-profile successes including the case of Glasgow City Assessor v Monti Marino (Scotland) Limited (2012) which successfully ended in the Lands Valuation Appeal Court (Court of Session) in Edinburgh.

Duncan said: “I am looking forward to working with MDG Group to ensure that their clients have the opportunity to appeal their Rateable Value. I’d recommend that businesses look at their revised RV because it is used to calculate your business rates and is the only part of your bill which can be challenged out with reliefs and exemptions.”

 

Other energy-related pledges in the Tory manifesto

  • The UK should have the ‘lowest energy costs in Europe’, both for households and businesses
  • To set up an industrial energy efficiency scheme to help large companies install measures to cut their energy use and their bills
  • Ensure digital energy meters are offered to every household and business by the end of 2020
  • Make it easier to switch energy providers and introduce a “safeguard tariff cap” and to:
  • Hold an independent review into the cost of energy to ensure UK energy costs are as low as possible, while ensuring a reliable supply and meeting 2050 carbon reduction objective.

 

Other Tory manifesto pledges on business, the economy and the EU-Brexit which will impact UK FTSE-listed energy companies (such as Perth-based utility company SSE)

Listed companies will have to publish ratio of executive pay to broader UK workforce pay

Maintain pledge to cut corporation tax to 17% by 2020

Legislate to make executive pay packages subject to strict annual votes by shareholders

Change mercantile law to ensure listed companies nominate a director from the workforce, create a formal employee advisory council or assign specific responsibility for employee representation to a designated non-executive director

 

Exit the European single market and customs union, but seek a “deep and special partnership” including comprehensive free trade and customs agreement

Agree terms of future partnership with EU alongside withdrawal, both within the two years allowed under Article 50

On Brexit, convert EU law into UK law and later allow the British parliament to pass legislation to “amend, repeal or improve” any piece of this

Seek to replicate all existing EU free trade agreements and support the ratification of trade agreements entered into during our EU membership

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