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Scottish Business Groups Comment On Rates Relief Scheme

Business groups have been responding to the Scottish Government’s announcement to introduce a business rates relief of up to 100 per cent on empty properties from April this year.

Making the announcement last month, local government minister Derek Mackay said the relief would help boost development, investment and the supply of new build business premises. It is expected to provide an additional £5-10 million in rates relief for businesses.

Empty properties built in Scotland from 1 April will be able to take advantage of the relief for up to 18 months, with the scheme set to run for three years.

While business leaders welcomed the move, it follows separate plans to increase the rates on empty commercial properties from the same month under the Unoccupied Properties Act which was passed last year.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Scotland’s assistant director, David Lonsdale, said the move to keep business taxes down was a positive step but argued the time-limited concession wouldn’t benefit everyone.

“The Scottish Government should go much further and think afresh about their previous decision, due to come into effect in April, which will penalise the majority of firms with empty premises to the tune of £36m in additional business rates over the next two years”, he said.

Elsewhere, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce told the BBC that ministers needed to go ‘back to the drawing board’ on empty property relief.

“Welcome though these measures are, they seem to represent a tacit admission that the government’s plan to reduce empty property relief was flawed from the outset,” said chief executive Liz Cameron.

Chairman of the Scottish Property Federation Jestyn Davies said: “The Government has listened to industry concerns about the impact of reducing empty property rate relief on speculative new development, which can often take more than a year to let. While we understand that the Government has had to operate within the confines of State Aid rules, this move is nonetheless a much needed and timely boost for the commercial development industry.”

Full details of the initiative are expected to be announced shortly.

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