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Vacant land tax could raise £200m a year, say Greens

Andy Wightman MSP says 69% of vacant or derelict land in Scotland could be developed.

Derelict land: 12,763 hectares in Scotland.
Derelict land: 12,763 hectares in Scotland. STV

A tax on vacant land in Scotland could raise £200m a year for public services, according to research by the Scottish Greens.

The report published by Andy Wightman MSP highlights there are 12,763 hectares of vacant or derelict land in Scotland, of which 69% could be developed.

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

In 2016, while 30% of Scotland's population lived within 500 metres of a derelict site, that rose to 59% 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.

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."

He added: "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."

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