Proposals to bring empty Scottish properties back to life

Businesses that move into long term unoccupied shops will be able to apply for discounted business rates under proposals put forward to the Scottish Government.

The 'Fresh Start' scheme aims to support landlords and business start-ups by offering a 50 per cent business rate discount for those moving into properties that have been unoccupied for a year or more.

The proposal to rejuvenate the country's ailing high streets has been put forward by local Government minister Derek Mackay as part of the Unoccupied Properties bill currently before Parliament.

As well as helping start-ups, Mackay said businesses would be able to occupy properties previously out of their means as well as helping expanding businesses move into larger premises.

"I want to see local high streets across Scotland thriving and empty properties brought back into use across the country," he said.

"In these challenging economic times, it is important that we ensure business rate reliefs maximise opportunities and allow Scotland to retain its position as the most supportive business environment anywhere in the UK."

Businesses in Scotland already receive a 50 per cent discount on business rates for empty properties but the Government wants this cut to 10 per cent.

MSPs and business groups are against the cut which they believe will increase the tax bills of Scotland's already pressed businesses.

Speaking against the Bill in July, Margret Mitchell MSP said: "This ‘tax on distress', as CBI Scotland described it, rather than addressing the blight of empty properties in town centres will instead merely add to the list of obstacles to promoting town centre regeneration."

Derek Mackay hopes the amended bill will allow businesses to take advantage of the halved business rates from 1 April 2013.