Tackling empty properties key to Scottish town development

By staff writers
October 31, 2012

The Scottish Government's plans to reduce the discount on business rates for owners of empty properties have been backed by Scottish Greens.

They point out that the proposal being implemented by the SNP was something the Greens envisaged and promoted in early in 2011.

By reducing the discount, property owners will be encouraged to bring vacant buildings back into use, either by selling the premises or lowering their rent, giving a helping hand to small businesses.

Attacking the empty property problem is key to town centre regeneration, say supporters of the plan.

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow and enterprise spokesperson for the Scottish Green Party, commented: "This measure, proposed almost two years ago by the Scottish Greens, will give hope to small businesses such as independent retailers struggling to get a foothold in our town centres."

He continued: "It's sad but perhaps not surprising to see Labour and the Tories oppose the measure, aligning themselves with wealthy vested interests like the CBI and Scottish Land and Estates.

"Small businesses underpin local economies and this measure is just one way of supporting them. In addition to bringing empty properties back into use we need to see the Scottish Government and local authorities considering a range of actions to revive our town centres," said Mr Harvie.

Scottish Land and Estates have stepped up their invective against the plan this week, and has backed a wrecking amendment by the Conservative Party.

Exemptions from the Uniform Business Rate for empty business premises were restricted in England in March 2007 and David Cameron's government has said that it will not reverse the decision. The Welsh Assembly introduced a similar policy in 2008.

Scottish Government figures show that the total cost of the exemption is around £130 million per financial year.

When the UK Government made the same changes to the system for England, some exemptions were retained, principally for smaller properties and during the first six months for which a a property is empty. These reduced the cost by 62.4 per cent


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