5 Sep 2012
The number of empty commercial properties in Scotland owned by councils has more than doubled in the space of two years, figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives have shown.
Last year there were 681 vacant publicly-owned, non-domestic properties in the country, compared to 494 the year before, and 294 in 2009/10.
This means SNP plans to reduce the rates relief for empty commercial properties from 50 per cent to only 10 per cent could cost local authorities millions of pounds.
The figures have emerged as politicians prepare to debate the issue in parliament tomorrow.
Examples include industrial units, office blocks, former schools and commercial shop units which lie dormant as businesses battle the effects of the economic climate.
The Scottish Conservatives have called on the SNP to drop plans for the tax increase, pointing out it will do nothing to encourage new ventures.
The Scottish Government has argued the Unoccupied Properties Bill would remove the incentive from owners to keep properties empty to save cash.
The statistics released under Freedom of Information show that there have been 3449 empty council-owned business properties over the past five years across Scotland.
And the true figure is likely to be even higher, as many local authorities were unable to disclose exactly how many empty commercial properties were on their patch.
Scottish Conservative local government spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell MSP said:
“There are clearly a worryingly high number of empty commercial properties owned by councils, the true number of which is still unknown.
“It is inconceivable that Scotland’s local authorities, currently grappling with major budget cuts, would not want to receive an income from these properties.
“According to the Scottish Government cutting discount rates will act as an incentive to owners to rent empty properties out.
“But as these figures clearly show the problem is not a lack of will to rent, but rather a lack of demand.
“This is the same position that private sector owners find themselves in, but despite this the SNP is determined to introduce this bill which adds yet another burden to already hard-pressed businesses.
“And not only will councils and private owners be affected by this ill-judged measure, so too will Scotland’s major quangos like Scottish Water and Scottish Enterprise.”