Plan to help high streets

LOCAL politicians have different views on whether or not Scottish Government plans will help our failing High Streets.

Holyrood is pressing ahead with plans to increase tax on unoccupied business properties and offer discounts to anyone wanting to fill shops that have ben empty for more than a year.

‘Fresh Start’ reduces the rates burden on businesses bringing empty commercial property back into use, whereas the Empty Property Bill increases the rates burden on owners of empty commercial property in order to persuade them to find occupiers.

Midlothian South, Tweedale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame (SNP) believes Fresh Start could rejuvenate local town centres.

She said: “Local High Streets in my constituency have been in decline in recent years with many shops and offices standing empty and I would like to see them thriving and empty properties brought back into use. By offering a 50% discount to anyone bringing a shop or office that has been empty for twelve months or more back into use, this scheme will help to bring businesses back to the high streets and give empty properties a fresh start.

“The plans also support the Scottish Government’s efforts to regenerate high streets across Scotland where property can sit empty for years, blighting a community.”

However, South Scotland MSP Jim Hume (Lib Dem) doesn’t believe the Scottish Government plans will help town centres: “Unfortunately this attack by the SNP on businesses will do nothing to revive the fortunes of high streets across South Scotland. It is frustrating – although perhaps not surprising – that the SNP has refused to listen to concerns from the business community.

“Hard-pressed businesses will be hammered as a result of SNP bulldozing. Far from providing an incentive to bring empty properties back into use, the bill will hit businesses already struggling to survive.

“These properties are empty due to lack of demand in tough economic times. The SNP Government wants to hammer businesses with high taxes when it should be helping them to recover and grow.”

Gordon Henderson, Senior Development Manager in Scotland for the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Our view is that anything that is going to get the High Street back trading again is to be welcomed.

“The properties that have sat empty for ages are the ones that we have to get moving.”