South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine took to the parliamentary chamber last week to ask the Scottish Government about the impact of UK Government VAT on town centre regeneration.
Ms McAlpine was highlighting the issue ahead of this week’s visit to Dumfries by the Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart MSP.
In her question, Ms McAlpine asked “Does the government agree with me that the UK Government’s insistence on charging full VAT for the restoration of buildings while new builds are zero-rates is having a detrimental impact on efforts to regenerate town centres?”
Responding, Mr Stewart agreed it was “a logical conclusion” that the regeneration of older properties, such as those which dominate in Dumfries town centre, would benefit from zero VAT.
Commenting outside the parliament, Ms McAlpine said:
“Unfortunately VAT remains reserved to the UK Government, and they seem totally unwilling to engage with our good ideas around VAT reduction on the restoration of older buildings.
“Thankfully, the Scottish Government is focussed on doing everything within its powers to support local authorities in the regeneration of historic town centres like Dumfries. As Mr Stewart explained, this is set out in the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Action Plan, and includes regeneration grant support through Historic Environment Scotland and funding and support for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership.
“The partnership provides practical assistance to councils and has so far resulted in some 1680 properties being brought back into use across the country. Mr Stewart also highlighted forthcoming provisions for compulsory sale orders which would form part of Scottish land reform legislation.
“I’m delighted the minister agreed to my request for him to come and learn more about the exciting things that are happening to regenerate Dumfries town centre.”
Mr Stewart will be joining Ms McAlpine this Friday to learn more about regeneration efforts in Dumfries including the Stove’s community-led “Living on the High Street” project.
Commenting in parliament, he said “I recognise that the member has a major interest in this and I intend to visit Dumfries shortly where I know that she has been asking numerous questions on this issue.”