Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Thursday, 21 June 2012 11:50 UK

Empty property rates relief debate

Scottish Conservative finance spokesperson Gavin Brown expressed "deep concern" about proposals to cut empty property property rate relief, which would "clobber" unlucky landlords hit by the recession, on 21 June 2012.

Mr Brown was leading a debate on the Scottish government proposals outlined in the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc.) (Scotland) Bill .

It proposes to cut empty property non-domestic rates relief from a maximum of 50% to a maximum of 10% for commercial properties, after a phasing in period of three months.

The Finance Committee criticised the financial memorandum of the bill pointing out it had been produced without proper consultation, and it was uncertain about the £18 million savings to the memorandum claimed would arise from the measures.

The Conservative MSP said everyone wanted to see empty properties brought back into use but added this legislation would not make any impact and called for the policy to be abolished.

He said there had been no formal consultation and said the vast majority of landlords wanted tenants but the market was weak and the government's measure "punishes the landlords unlucky to be hit by the recession".

Scottish Labour local government spokesperson Sarah Boyack also attacked the bill and called on the government to conduct a business and regulatory impact assessment (BRIA) immediately.

Ms Boyack said it was "simply not good enough to be giving government assertions" and highlighted the need for evidence and the bill should not be passed until it had been properly considered and justified.

Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said legislation would incentivise some landlords to bring commercial properties back into use and said some rents remained stubbornly high when there was demand from potential tenants.

Mr Mackay said the government was taking a "flexible approach" to the policy, were listening to stakeholders and parliamentarians and had "not set in stone what we are doing".

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