Business groups have lashed out at MSPs following the approval of legislation that will see rates relief cut on empty commercial properties.
Under the present rules, firms qualify for a 50 per cent reduction on the business rates of vacant premises. However, earlier last week, the Scottish government approved changes which will see 90 per cent of the charge being levied.
Holyrood claims it is a drive to help boost the high streets by releasing new premises into the market. Derek Mackay, local government minister said:
“Empty commercial properties are a blight on our high streets and these reforms will help bring them back into use.”
However, the Scottish CBI has said it is a “damaging” move which will cost companies £18 million a year. Other organisations, including the Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Property Federation and Scottish Retail Consortium have also spoken out against the move.
The chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Liz Cameron said:
“…[the SNP is] demonstrating, at best, a total lack of understanding of the pressures facing businesses in Scotland today.”
A pressure which is reducing for some though is accessing commercial finance in Scotland, which Holyrood will hope could be directed to new premises.
Included in the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties) (Scotland) Bill, the measure was passed by 66 votes to 20. There were 32 abstentions.
The government has had to bow to opposition to get the measure through though, with an amendment introduced to allow requests for an extension to the 50 per cent discount.