Fears that Scottish business and landlords would have to suffer the consequence of extra charges were realised yesterday, as controversial measure to charge Empty Rates on all commercial premises was passed by 66 votes to 20 in the Scottish Assembly.
Landlords in Scotland are now the latest victims of empty rates legislation, which has seen their rates relief for vacant property slashed from 50% to just 10%, signaling the failure of government to understand the pressures facing the business and landlords today. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce dismissed the strategy as the wrong way to go about bringing empty property back in to use and stated that the government have simply taken valuable resources out at a time when economic stimulation is most important.
Since the announcement, many business leaders have hit out at the policy which would increase the burden on companies by an estimated £18million a year. Far from encouraging the use of empty property, the move could in fact lead to further distress, with landlords unable to cope with the rise in rates.
The move would make it more expensive for firms to invest and create jobs, supporting the case that cutting rates relief is damaging not just to the individual landlord, but to the wider economy as a whole.
It’s not just business that will suffer either, as the same Bill gives local authorities the power to increase the council tax on homes that have been empty for a year or more by up to 100%. These moves will do little to improve vacant property use and seem merely to have taken the ‘relief’ out of the rates.
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