29 Oct 2012
Plans to increase tax on empty commercial properties will cost the Scottish Government’s own enterprise body an extra £700,000 a year.
Scottish Enterprise currently has more than 400 empty premises across the country, with the 50 per cent discount rate meaning it spends around £900,000 on rates per year.
However, once this rate discount for empty properties is reduced to 10 per cent, as the SNP intends to do on Wednesday, it will add a further £700,000 to the organisation’s annual payment.
But the Scottish Conservatives, along with a range of business groups, fiercely oppose the measures on the basis it will not encourage new occupants to come forward, and will hit companies already battling the tough economic climate.
The figures, obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through Freedom of Information, show Scottish Enterprise has 414 empty properties, with the additional cost if the bill is passed estimated at £733,000.
This is significantly more than the “maximum of £0.4 million” estimated by the Scottish Government in evidence presented to the Scottish Parliament finance committee earlier this year, which also stated Scottish Enterprise only had 200 empty properties.
This followed an earlier statement to the committee by the Scottish Government saying it did not know the potential costs of this scheme.
Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown MSP said:
“I find it staggering that the SNP’s own enterprise body will have to find an extra £700,000 which, instead of going to help Scottish businesses, will now end up in Scottish Government coffers.
“The Scottish Government says it will spend every penny possible on growing the economy, but here it is doing precisely the opposite.
“If a body like Scottish Enterprise cannot shift 400 properties – how can others be expected to cope?
“There is also an issue of competence here – first of all the SNP said it didn’t know, then that there were 200 empty properties costing a maximum of an extra £400,000.
“Yet a simple Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives has found this to be a gross underestimate.
“There is still time for this ill-judged policy to be scrapped.
“It’s what businesses want, and the SNP should be listening to the people who know best.
“It will not encourage more properties onto the market, it will harm speculative development, and could even lead to increased demolition of buildings.”