HELENSBURGH's high street wants a review of business rates as pressures on the local economy continue to squeeze shops.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) last week said the country had the highest number of empty shops in 18 months.

They called for the Scottish Government to rethink its plan to hike business rates in their next budget.

Wendy Hamilton, who represents the Federation of Small Business in Helensburgh and Lomond, warned shops were struggling.

She told the Advertiser: "I find it incomprehensible that the Scottish Government are in the process of increasing rates for high street businesses at a time when record levels of shops, pubs and restaurants are closing permanently, with the loss of valuable jobs.

"They talk of the importance of saving the high street but appear to be ensuring quite the opposite.

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"With businesses already facing overwhelming hurdles with insane energy bill hikes, soaring material costs, increasing wage bills the government is about to add another blow by decreasing small business rates relief and increasing rates costs.

"Will the government see sense, before it’s too late?"

SRC director David Lonsdale said more effort was needed to keep down the cost of operating stores.

He said: "After all, the business rate is at a 24-year high and government forecasters have pencilled in a chunky uplift for next spring which, if implemented, would add £34m to retailers' rates bills.

"The finance secretary must carefully assess the impact on firms and hard-pressed retail destinations when she comes to set the business rate in the Scottish Budget."

The Scottish Government told the BBC last week that any decision on non-domestic rates would be made later this year.

A spokesperson added: "The Scottish Government has set out a strong non-domestic rates package in 2023-24, including the most generous rates relief for small businesses anywhere in the UK, taking over 100,000 properties out of rates altogether.

"As part of this, it is estimated that around half of properties in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in Scotland will pay no rates this year."