A bill to ensure that the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on business rateable values can only be considered at revaluation, rather than on a "material change of circumstances" appeal ahead of that time, has passed its final stage at the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs unanimously approved the Non-Domestic Rates (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Bill, which Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur said would ensure fairness and provide clarity, certainty and consistency for ratepayers. Similar legislation has been passed in the other parts of the United Kingdom.

Opening the stage 3 debate, Mr Arthur said that since the start of the pandemic, more than 40,000 appeals had been lodged with valuation appeal committees. The timing of that abnormal spike suggested that most of those were lodged because of the pandemic. However the "material change of circumstances" provisions were appropriate in relation to physical changes to a property, such as an extension or demolition, or to the local area, rather than to the effects of COVID-19.

"Market-wide economic changes affecting property values should be reflected at revaluations, when all relevant impacts on values across all properties will be taken into account", he told the chamber. "That would include any impact on rateable values arising from COVID-19 or COVID-19 restrictions."

The bill has the effect that, should a matter attributable to coronavirus first occur before 2 April 2020 and continue on or after that date, no account can be taken of that matter with effect from 2 April 2020 onwards. That date aligns with the date from which the definition of "material change of circumstances" was clarified by the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act 2020 to exclude changes in general economic circumstances.

New rateable values will come into effect on 1 April 2023 based on rental values on 1 April 2022. The revaluation has been delayed by a year to allow time for the property market to adjust post-COVID. Mr Arthur further noted that "The introduction of three-yearly revaluation cycles and a one-year tone date will ensure that future valuations are more closely aligned with current market values and they should, therefore, take account of any potential changes as a result of the pandemic."

It will be for appellants to decide whether they want to pursue or withdraw their COVID appeals. The disposal deadline has been extended by one year to 31 December 2023, which will enable appellants who have made an appeal on COVID-19 grounds to make an informed decision about whether to pursue their appeal or withdraw now that the Parliament has completed its scrutiny.

Scottish Government support since the start of the pandemic has included around £1.6bn of COVID-related rates reliefs.

Read the stage 3 debate here (from 1620).