31 Oct 2012
Scotland’s public sector faces a bill of at least £3 million as a result of the SNP increase in empty commercial property rates.
This is significantly higher than the SNP estimated, first saying only 12 properties across the whole of Scotland would be affected, before admitting the absolute maximum cost would be £2.4 million a year.
But the true cost to organisations like councils, NHS boards, universities and police forces is an additional £3.1 million, figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through Freedom of Information have shown.
And that statistic is likely to be far higher, with some councils and NHS boards failing to respond ahead of the vote tomorrow.
The Scottish Government wants to increase the tax on empty commercial properties from 50 per cent to 90 per cent, despite grave warnings on the impact this will have
Yesterday, the Scottish Conservatives revealed that the government’s own enterprise body would face an extra tax bill of £700,000 as a result of the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc) Bill.
This is despite previous SNP forecasts that Scottish Enterprise would only have to pay an absolute maximum of an extra £400,000.
Among the public sector organisations with the highest bills were Perth and Kinross Council, with an extra £157,000, East Dunbartonshire Council with £177,000 and Edinburgh City Council with £252,000.
The figures come a week after business leaders across Scotland gathered at Holyrood to voice their anger at the plans.
Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown MSP said:
“It makes absolutely no sense for the SNP to introduce a tax increase which will harm not only businesses across Scotland, but public sector bodies too.
“At a time when so many organisations are making cut backs, why does the SNP think it’s a good idea to lump on an extra £3 million a year in tax?
“So not only is the Scottish Government harming hard-working local businesses and its own enterprise body, it’s hammering the public sector too.
“Introducing this tax would be a terrible mistake – the Scottish Conservatives have said this for some time and so has the business community.
“It will not encourage properties back onto the market, it will harm speculative development and might even cause a rise in demolition.”
Notes to editors
The final stage of the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc) Bill will go ahead at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.
The Scottish Government originally said “less than a dozen” public sector properties would be affected by the scheme in its financial memorandum, p6:
The Scottish Conservatives revealed yesterday that Scottish Enterprise was facing an extra cost of £700,000 a year.
Business leaders came together last week to criticise the SNP proposals:
The Scottish Conservatives have long called for the proposals to be scrapped:
Glasgow City Council’s FoI response estimated an extra cost of £258,000. This is less than the figure given in evidence to the Scottish Parliament, which estimated up to £1 million could be the cost. It is understood the more recent £258,000 figure does not include 176 empty properties transferred to City Properties Glasgow (Investments) LLP since 2010.