More than a dozen business leaders from across Scotland met in the Scottish Parliament today to discuss the SNP’s plans to increase empty properties tax on commercial properties.
14 representatives from variety of different business sectors spoke in unity against the proposals contained in the bill, the final stage of which will be debated next week.
The event was hosted by the Scottish Conservatives in a bid to ensure that the business world, who will be most affected and are best placed to comment on the proposals, are heard as part of the debate.
All of those in attendance agreed the plans – which would see non domestic empty properties tax relief reduced from 50 per cent to just 10 per cent – would be damaging to business at a time when it can least be afforded.
The Scottish Conservatives’ call for the Scottish Government to drop the plans altogether were ignored by the SNP at Stage 1.
In an effort therefore to try and mitigate the impact on business, the Scottish Conservatives are suggesting amendments to the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc) Bill.
These include amendments to ensure that only the limited number of businesses that wilfully keep their properties empty would be affected by the reduction in non-domestic rates relief discount, and to ensure exemptions for firms who were refurbishing, or actively attempting to sell or let their premises.
Scottish Conservative local government spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell MSP said:
“This meeting crystallised the adverse impact in human terms this bill, based on a false premise that unoccupied property is being left empty deliberately, will have on the Scottish economy, jobs and families.
“Today, businesses of all types from across the country came together to speak with one voice against these measures.
“These plans by the SNP are damaging a vital sector at the worst possible time.
“So far the Scottish Government has ignored the business community, but it was clear given the confirmation of the disastrous effects of the bill, this position is not sustainable and that the views of a group as substantial as this cannot be ignored any longer.”
Craig Wilson, a partner at Eric Young and Co – a surveying organisation which advises retailers – said:
“The bill proposes to charge rates of 90 per cent when part of the overall problem is rates are too high in the first place.
“That doesn’t seem practical or correct, particularly when the market has been in decline over recent years.”
David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said:
“It is the wrong tax at the wrong time.
“If it goes ahead, this bill will see yet more businesses going into administration on our high streets.”
David Peck, managing director of Buccleuch Properties, said:
“This is founded on fundamentally flawed logic.
“Never before have we seen business in Scotland united on a single issue in this way.
“From retailers to rural industries, businesses large and small, they will all be affected.”