£50m Princes Mall could be sold for 40p

FORMER Rangers owner Sir David Murray could pay less than 40p for a publicly-owned site in the centre of Edinburgh valued at £50 million, it was claimed today.

The tycoon currently has a long-term lease on Princes Mall shopping centre, previously known as Waverley Market, at the east end of Princes Street, through his property company Premier Property Group (PPG).

But under a proposed change in the law he could assume ownership of the 1.68 acre site for a nominal sum.

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The Long Leases (Scotland) Bill ran out of time in the last parliament, but has now been revived by the Scottish Government. The legislation paves the way for leaseholders to take over land or property where the lease has more than 100 years to run.

PPG paid £37 million to acquire the lease in 2004 and the site is understood to bring in around £2 million a year in rent from the shops. PPG pays just 1p a year in rent to the city council. The nominal sum for Sir David to buy the site would be based on the current rent.

When the law was first proposed, it was suggested Princes Mall could be lost to Sir David for £2.60, but today reports claimed the sum could be under 40p.

Land expert Andy Wightman, author of Who Owns Scotland, said publicly owned land – and in particular so-called “common good” land, specifically held in perpetuity by councils for the good of the community – should be exempt from the plans.

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He said: “I am not pleased the legislation is being revived. If civic Edinburgh wants to leave a legacy [in Waverley Market] to future generations, it needs to put up a fight now.”

Green MSP and councillor Alison Johnstone said: “We need to ensure that Waverley Market has a specific exemption and isn’t handed over to a wealthy business tycoon as a consequence of this legislation.”

A council spokesman said the authority was aware of the proposed law and its consequences.