Yesterday in Parliament we debated the issue of the Scottish Government’s proposals to change tax relief on empty commercial properties. As Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet member for local government I raised concerns about the lack of a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment.
My view is that the reasons given for not conducting a proper assessment simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s important that the Parliament and its committees have proper evidence in front of them when considering new legislation.
We had a good debate in Parliament yesterday, but I’m very disappointed that the Scottish Government has chosen not to listen to the concerns of business. Although Labour is not in principle against using taxation to incentivise businesses to bring empty properties back into use the current economic climate means that the proposal could be counter-productive.
Experience in England shows that there are now more empty properties, that some properties have been demolished, and that some businesses have become insolvent due to the increase in tax.
In Wales a thorough expert analysis has been carried out to look at the range of ways in which the Welsh government might regenerate town centres and create economic development. I think there are times when the government of the day needs to listen and change course. Last summer the sectarian Bill was delayed to enable full consideration.
I think a big chance was missed yesterday although I’ll keep pushing the Scottish Government to do the right thing.