THE amount of money dished out to businesses in tax relief is on course to have soared by 84 per cent over the last decade.

Figures show the value of business rates relief is forecast to be £717 million this financial year – compared to just £389 million in 2008/09.

At the same time, companies across Scotland are expected to pay £2,788 million in rates this year, substantially more than 10 years ago.

Scottish firms continue to stump up more tax than their counterparts south of the Border after the SNP Government doubled the controversial large business rates supplement in 2016.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, branded the rates system “creaking, unwieldy and expensive”, and argued it only seemed to function through a maze of exemptions and reliefs.

He said: “The increasing use of these sticking plasters highlights the increasing inefficiency of the system, exemplifying why it’s no longer fit for purpose."

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has previously said he will look at reducing the large business rates supplement by the end of the current parliament, but retail chiefs have called for more immediate action.

Earlier this year, it emerged more than 73,000 Scottish firms are awaiting a decision after appealing their new business rates following overhauls to the system in 2017.

A campaign by The Herald has highlighted issues faced by companies due to tax rates north of the Border, with hundreds of pubs and restaurants raising concerns about their future.

The latest figures, which were revealed in response to a written parliamentary question by Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly, show the value of reliefs as a proportion of the overall tax take from business rates has also risen sharply.

Mr Kelly insisted firms need “certainty and stability”, adding: “This is clearly not happening as rates relief continues to rise and the backlog of appeals continues to build up.”

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary, said the rates system was “cluttered, confused and clearly inhibiting Scotland’s economic growth”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it had accepted the majority of the reforms recommended by Ken Barclay, former head of Scottish operations for RBS, in his review of business rates last year.

She added: “As part of the most generous relief package in the UK, we offer a range of initiatives unique to Scotland, including the Small Business Bonus Scheme which has removed the rates burden for many thousands of retailers on high streets the length of Scotland.”