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21 February 2017, 05:46
Finance secretary Derek Mackay is to address MSPs on the issue of controversial business rate changes.
The Scottish Government said he will use a proposed parliamentary statement to outline "a further package of support'' to help firms deal with the impact of the forthcoming revaluation of business rates.
Firms are facing their first rate revaluation since 2010, with independent assessors carrying out the work and the changes due to take effect on April 1.
The Scottish Conservatives say the situation is becoming a "crisis'', arguing that businesses facing large increases could be forced to close.
The Scottish Government insists that action it has already committed to will ensure that seven out of 10 business properties will pay the same rates or less next year, with half paying nothing.
Speaking ahead of his statement, Mr Mackay said: "I have set out a competitive package of measures to give small and medium enterprises the security and confidence to grow in these tough economic times.
"Under the Small Business Bonus Scheme 100,000 properties will pay no rates at all next year and a further 3,500 properties will benefit from 25% relief. This package means around 9,000 properties will be up to #7,000 a year better off than their equivalents in England.
"Additionally we are cutting the tax rate that applies to a property's rateable value by 3.7% to 46.6p in the pound so even some properties with values going up will see their bills go down. And to help larger firms we have increased the threshold for the large business supplement, meaning that 8,000 fewer premises will pay it.''
He said he has been listening to firms around Scotland and will set out "further steps to support Scotland's economy''.
Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said businesses need "real help'' from the Scottish Government.
"If they don't take meaningful action we face seeing the Scottish economy suffering as many businesses across Scotland will be left with no choice but to close,'' he warned.
Mr Fraser also said: "Derek Mackay was warned months ago about the damage that these rates increases could cause, but it's taken until now for him to do anything about it.
"He's been dragged to parliament kicking and screaming after we forced him into discussing the issue with an urgent question.
"It was clear that a crisis was emerging but instead of acting the SNP sat back and tried to pretend that it had nothing to do with them.
"Businesses weren't buying it, and they'll now want reassurances that the SNP will take urgent action to redress this situation.''