Failing Princes Street needs a new vision for future - Miles Briggs

Miles Briggs MSPMiles Briggs MSP
Miles Briggs MSP
The decline of the high street is a well-documented tragedy, but nowhere is its demise more acute than Edinburgh’s once great Princes Street.

With its position between two UNESCO World Heritage sights and its view of Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street could hardly ask for a more enviable location, but for years now it has looked anything but regal.

It is clear that the new St James Shopping Centre has become Scotland’s premier shopping destination. What is now vital is we see all interested parties come together to develop a new vision for Princes Street which can help drive regeneration and a new future for Princes Streets’ landmark buildings.

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It is vital that we see a more coordinated strategy around Princes Street future and the investment opportunities which are being developed from retail outlets to hotels and visitor attractions like the Johnnie Walker Experience in the old House of Frasers Store.

Princes Street has suffered during the economic downturnPrinces Street has suffered during the economic downturn
Princes Street has suffered during the economic downturn

If we can create a new vision for Princes Street then the opportunities which our growing economy in Lothian offers will help regenerate this once jewel in the crown of Scottish high streets.

Council Tax Rise

Ever since 2007, the SNP’s big catch phrase centred around ‘abolishing the unfair council tax’. True to form, it has never been abolished and the SNP-Green government’s latest attack on middle Scotland is set to come in the form of a rise in council tax for properties in tax bands E-H.

Having starved local authorities of much needed income with their savage cuts, the Scottish government has now decided that a consultation on changes to council tax bands is what is required to plug the black holes in council finances across Scotland.

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This could see up to 100,000 households in these tax bands in Edinburgh pay up to an additional £800 per annum in council tax fees - a sickening blow during a cost-of-living crisis.

The proposals would see a Band E property add 7.5% on their bills, Band F dwellers a 12.5% increase, those in Band G properties an extra 17.5% added to their bills and those in Band H suffer the highest hikes.

Edinburgh is likely to be disproportionately hit given we have far more properties in these tax bands (38% compared to the Scottish average of 25%) and receive the lowest funding per head of any council area. These plans would devastate middle-income earners.

What makes this even more alarming is the fact that these hikes could also be on top of any decided by local councils meaning people in these tax bands are hit twice.

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It is absolutely staggering that the Government has decided now is the time to raise taxes in order to make up the financial deficit they have caused, given how many are struggling. Scotland is already the highest taxed area of the United Kingdom, and yet more hits to the pocket is not what Scots need.

There is little doubt that SNP-Green Ministers will attempt to justify these tax raises as part of their ‘progressive taxation’ policy while ignoring the fact that it is not just the wealthy that reside in these properties, but middle-income families and elderly pensioners, too.

Instead of taxing hardworking Scots even further, the Scottish government should commit to what the Scottish Conservatives have repeatedly called for - a fair funding deal for local councils.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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