New government legislation aimed at targeting empty properties and shops has been introduced by the Scottish Parliament. The Bill aims to target shop and property owners who sit on their assets to prevent other competitors setting up, and others who just keep the property as an asset in these times when shares are not the best or easiest way to make an investment. Paisley’s MSP, George Adam, made sure he was present at the debate and took his chance to speak on the legislation.
‘This is the legislation I am here to pass, something that tackles the problems facing our high streets. For too long politicians have been mouthing off, saying that empty shops are a disgrace but do absolutely nothing about it, happy to sit on their hands when the power is there to actually do something.
‘I have been Paisley’s MSP for almost a year and a half now. I have been born and raised in this town, I know the challenges that we face in the town. This is why I wanted to be elected, to get things done, enough of the rhetoric.
‘Many people will probably not realise that there are almost 20,000 properties benefitting from rates relief because they are empty. We are subsidising these properties by more than £150 million, money that we are providing to businesses to keep them shut while I see people scrimping and saving every day coming in to my office.
‘This legislation will make it more expensive for property owners to keep their shops empty. In our High Street there is a huge percentage of capital investment companies just buying and holding on to properties because at this time it is a better investment than shares. This is what we are dealing with. And these companies have their HQs around the world. I would bet that the people in control couldn’t point to Paisley on a map, no interest in our town, no community feeling, just purely an investment. Well, the only way to deal with that is make it less easy for them to be subsidised to keep their property empty.
‘I even know of a case in the High Street where one property was sub-let so many times, the original owner couldn’t re-open the shop because he couldn’t trace who currently held the last sub-let paperwork.
‘This cannot go on and I’m proud to have been involved in the debate that will make this proposed Bill in to legislation. It is thought that almost properties will re-open with its introduction. That is good but it is not the silver bullet for our High Streets. We need to tackle other problems, clearing up our High Streets. Many of you will know I have been working on this in the town. Investing in a town opening a shop, do you want to open up in a street that looks clean and modern, or do you have a look at the guttering with trees growing out of premises?
‘We need to look at how we use our High Streets. At the moment internet shopping accounts for just over 13% of all our shopping, but this is growing at a rate of 14% a year, which means just after this decade is over more than half our shopping will be done on-line. So, the function of our high streets must change, possibly owners applying to change the use of their retail outlet to housing?
‘Concrete legislation at last, no more words. Let’s get on with the job.’