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Small Business Bonus Scheme: Evaluation

A report has been published presenting the results of an evaluation of the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS), and provides recommendations in relation to the SBBS and non-domestic rates relief more broadly.

Main Findings

  • The coverage of the SBBS is broad and usage has increased over time
  • We find no empirical evidence that identifies the SBBS as supporting enhanced business outcomes, but there is evidence from our survey that businesses perceive there to be benefits from the SBBS
  • We find that businesses with similar rateable values – the primary criterion on which SBBS eligibility is determined – vary substantially in size and other attributes
  • In the Valuation Roll – an administrative record of all non-domestic properties in Scotland – the distribution of the number of properties reveals “bunching” around the eligibility thresholds of the SBBS
  • We faced numerous data-related challenges during this evaluation, which has limited our ability to draw robust conclusions
  • Our experience of undertaking this evaluation allows us to make recommendations to improve data collection to facilitate a future evaluation.


  1. Firstly, as we highlight throughout this evaluation, it is exceptionally difficult to reach any definitive conclusions about the impact of the SBBS on the business base in Scotland
  2. Following on from this, one of our particular recommendations is that the Scottish Government begins to collect new information that will make a more robust assessment of the SBBS (and potentially other reliefs) possible in the future. Our suggestions include: Our suggestions include: a. The creation of a digital registry of businesses in Scotland; b. Ensuring this digital registry is periodically updated; c. Ensuring the database of businesses in the digital registry contains the appropriate identifiers so that businesses can be accurately matched to their record in administrative data sets. d. Maintaining a database of business outcomes of interest (e.g., turnover, employment, investment) for the business base in Scotland (including micro, small and large businesses), updated annually, that can be used to evaluate the efficacy of the SBBS; e. Requiring businesses to report appropriate data on other business activity outside Scotland (especially, but not limited to, those receiving non-domestic rates relief) to allow a better assessment of the need for business support within Scotland; and f. Ensuring guidelines for data collection and management are consistent across local authorities and assessors.
  3. Using this data, the Scottish Government should undertake regular and comprehensive assessments of the SBBS, alongside other business support policies.
  4. Fourth, we find ‘bunching’ of non-domestic properties around SBBS eligibility thresholds…We recommend that the Scottish Government explore with the independent Scottish Assessors why this occurred.
  5. Fifth, we find that rateable value is a poor measure by which to classify businesses as ‘small’, and therefore in need of support.

It is worth noting that this is just an independent evaluation of SBBS by an external stakeholder – that is not to say that the Scottish Government won’t make any changes regarding SBBS and self-catering. These are just recommendations for the government. We await the Scottish Government’s response to the report.

Read the full report.

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