Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Thursday, 6 September 2012 19:27 UK

Local Government Finance Bill 2

Scottish Labour MSP Elaine Murray said a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment on should be undertaken to examine the potential results of cutting empty property non-domestic rates relief.

Ms Murray was closing the debate on the general principles of the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc.) (Scotland) Bill on behalf of her party on 6 September 2012.

She said her party would support the bill with "significant reservations".

Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay again called on MSPs to back the general principles of the bill.

At decision time his motion was agreed to, with 96 MSP voting for it and 15 MSPs against it.

During the debate Mr Mackay said it was right to give discretionary power to local authorities to vary council tax levels on empty homes and the regulations were being consulted upon.

The minister insisted the legislation relating to varying of the empty property rates relief was an enabling power.

He said the Scottish government tried to ensure the rates system, rates support and rates relief had competitive advantage over rest of UK and this would allow it to quickly change rates support through statutory instrument it rates were altered elsewhere.

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.

Labour's housing spokesperson Alex Johnstone said the cut in empty property rates relief was "one more cost against those who are currently bearing the cost of empty properties they cannot let up and down the country".

Earlier, Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Jim Hume said: "We don't agree that taxing businesses more is going to do anything to help regenerate our town centres. Far from providing an incentive to bring empty properties back into use, the Bill will hammer businesses already struggling to survive.

"The Scottish Government wants to hammer businesses with high taxes when it should be helping them to recover and grow."


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