Scottish Greens call for levy on ‘vacant’ Scottish land

Land reform campaigner Andy Wightman has called for a tax on vacant land
Land reform campaigner Andy Wightman has called for a tax on vacant land
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A TAX on vacant land in Scotland could raise £200 million a year for public services, according to research by the Scottish Greens.

A new report, published by Lothian MSP Andy Wightman, claimed Scotland has around 20,000 football pitches worth of vacant or derelict land.

The report says that there are 12,763 hectares of vacant land in areas across the country, of which 69 per cent could be developed.

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Glasgow has 782 derelict sites, North Lanarkshire 487, North Ayrshire 281 and Edinburgh, where house prices are the highest of any Scottish city, 76.

The report also found that house prices in the capital are predicted to rise by 23 per cent by 2021, almost double the ­predicted growth for the rest of the UK. In 2016, while 30 per cent of Scotland’s population lived within 500 metres of a derelict site, that rose to 59 per cent for those in the most deprived areas.

Bringing such sites into the non-domestic rates system could raise cash to build affordable homes and tackle the housing crisis, the report said.

The Greens have also put forward proposals for a vacant site levy, similar to that in ­Ireland, which would allow local councils to levy charges.

Mr Wightman, the party’s housing and land reform spokesman, said: “Over half of Scotland’s most deprived ­communities are within 500 metres of vacant and derelict land so there is huge potential to develop and regenerate where it is most needed, and ease the pressure to build on green spaces valued by communities.

“The Scottish Government, in rejecting bolder land reform legislation last year, promised to consult on the taxation of derelict and vacant land and I hope this paper brings that forward.

“Given the lack of affordable housing and continuing financial pressures on public services, it’s unacceptable that landowners can profit from withholding land suitable for housing.

“There is growing political consensus in Scotland that we need big changes to tackle the housing crisis, so let’s not be timid when it comes to giving local councils the power to tax vacant and derelict land.”

Ireland recently created a similar ‘vacant site levy’, with local councils due to be charged a percentage of the market price for vacant land from next year.

A register of vacant sites will be drawn up from January next year in each local ­authority area. Three per cent of the land’s market price will then be charged in tax, a move designed to force landowners and developers to utilise it for housing.