Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Thursday, 6 September 2012 17:45 UK

Local Government Finance Bill 1

Local Government Minister Derek Mackay told MSPs he wanted to see the 25,000 homes sitting empty brought back in to use as there was 140,000 families on waiting lists for a social rented home.

The minister was leading a debate on the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc.) (Scotland) Bill on 6 September 2012.

At decision time his motion calling for the backing of the general principles of the legislation was agreed to, with 96 MSP voting for it and 15 MSPs against it.

The bill has three main provisions:

  • 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.
  • Enable the Scottish Government to bring forward regulations to allow Scottish local authorities to increase council tax charges on certain long-term empty homes
  • Abolish the requirement on the Scottish government to pay Housing Support Grant, currently only paid to the Shetland Islands Council.

Mr Mackay said empty homes and businesses "blight our communities" and wanted to ensure that the bill would make the best use of existing buildings and act as an incentive to bring empty properties back in to use.

He said the Scottish government had been funding the empty homes partnership and were part funding three empty homes officers on a pilot basis across seven councils.

The minister also said the package of rates relief would "remain the most generous in the UK".

Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said there remained "serious concerns about the lack of rigour underpinning the SNPs proposals".

Ms Boyack said both a consultation and a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) should have been conducted on the proposals.

Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell said "this is a fundamentally flawed bill based on a false premise".

Ms Mitchell said the bill would place additional burdens on already hard pressed businesses and "is the wrong proposal at the wrong time and should be abandoned before any lasting damage is done".

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