Empty property rates reform will revitalise town centres
Plans to revitalise Scotland’s town centres through the introduction of incentives to potentially bring up to 5,500 business properties back into use will be outlined by Local Government Minister Derek Mackay tomorrow.
Empty Property Relief is being reformed as part of a wider review of business rates this summer and this reform will include measures to incentivise owners of vacant premises to bring them back into commercial use.
Under the current system of Empty Property Relief the Scottish Government would have provided approximately £757m of business rates subsidies, over the period 2010-15, to owners of business premises who have failed to find occupants. The new reforms will reduce this subsidy by £36m and aims to encourage maximum occupancy of Scotland’s town centres, linking to the Regeneration and Town Centre Strategies.
In an appearance at the Local Government and Regeneration Committee tomorrow, Mr Mackay will discuss his work with stakeholders to support regeneration and economic growth.
Speaking ahead of committee, Mr Mackay said:
“The Scottish Government and our enterprise agencies are working tirelessly to ensure Scotland retains its reputation as the most competitive place to do business in the UK - an important part of this is reviewing our business rates to reflect the current economic challenges and opportunities.
“The current system of empty property relief is not working for our communities and we recognise there is a need to incentivise owners of business premises to find occupants - not to keep the shop doors shut. Through working with stakeholders across the business community, we plan to introduce new incentives which will revitalise our town centres and potentially bring up to 5,500 vacant business properties back into use.
“As part of our regeneration plans and Town Centre Strategy, I want to see local high streets across Scotland thriving. I have listened to, and will continue to listen to, a wide range of stakeholders on our reforms and I have emphasised that there is flexibility on our approach - we are open to ideas on how we can maximise opportunities to regenerate our town centres. The planned town centre review, announced as part of the Regeneration Strategy, will build on this and look to tackle some of the long-standing issues facing town centres and high streets, through working with local authorities and others to deliver innovative solutions.
“In these tough economic conditions, it is important that business rate reliefs maximise opportunities to create sustainable economic growth and allow Scotland to retain its position as the most supportive business environment anywhere in the UK.
“This Government is focused on supporting Scotland’s business community. We have retained the small business bonus scheme, which has either eliminated or substantially reduced business rates for two out of every five commercial properties in Scotland, and even after proposed reform, empty property relief will remain significantly more generous than that offered in England and Wales."