Blog: A busy few weeks for property

David Melhuish
David Melhuish

Scottish Property Federation director David Melhuish summarises the latest developments in Scottish real estate policy, and explains what is being done to attract investment into Scotland’s cities.

Over the last few weeks there has certainly been no shortage of news and announcements impacting Scotland’s property sector and the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) have been at the forefront of these discussions putting forward the views of their members.

Scottish real estate is an important contributor to the economy and it is vital that the government creates the right environment to attract global investment into Scottish real estate. With this in mind, in February we facilitated a real estate roundtable discussion with the First Minister to allow her to meet key industry representatives to look at ways in which we can attract investment from around the globe into projects as varied as private rented housing and Grade A office space to heritage projects.

During the round-table we put forward proposals for the creation of a ‘Real Estate Forum’ which would sit across Government portfolios and give a renewed drive and focus to policy affecting Scotland’s property sector. Discussions about the shape and direction of the forum continue to make sure that Scotland takes advantage of all the opportunities available to it, especially in terms of attracting capital. The First Minister, and subsequently the Deputy First Minister have been receptive to such ideas and we look forward to discussing these issues in detail with the newly formed Scottish Government post-election.

Hot on the heels of the First Minister’s roundtable we held our annual conference in Edinburgh, focused on Attracting Global Capital, with a political hustings that let us hear from Scotland’s main political parties about their vision for Scotland’s property sector. Debate was lively and served as a timely reminder, especially to the politicians present, of the importance of real estate to the Scottish economy.

The themes of our conference have been embraced by others in the industry as The Scottish Cities Alliance released their ‘pitch book’ as part of a series of measures to showcase the investment opportunities which are available in our cities and beyond. We have long suggested that the key to attracting global capital to Scotland is to ensure that cities are visibly ‘open for business’, and that the opportunities for innovative partnerships with long term investment potential are visible to a wide audience, so welcome this initial idea.

The Government have also been playing their part with a number of announcements impacting the sector. As the independent review of planning policy nears completion we now have a new review which will look at non domestic rates – an issue which has long been of concern to our members. We will be working with our members to assist the government in bringing forward constructive reform and we are encouraged by the First Minister’s statement that the review is about fairness and overall, revenue neutrality.

In the next few weeks we will also see the closing of the Scottish Government’s consultation on a rental income guarantee scheme and we will continue to encourage our members and others to make their views known. We certainly believe that guarantees provided by the government would build investor confidence and any steps which can be taken to attract investment into Scotland must be explored. We will of course be playing our part to bring the voice of our members to the heart of government on issues such as this.

Lots has been happening, but we are starting to see encouraging steps to help strengthen the Scottish property sector. Between the Scottish Government’s willingness to consult on non-domestic rates and a rental income guarantee scheme the potential for a new forum set to help Scotland take advantage of every opportunity, we are on the right track to making a positive impact on the sector.

  • This blog originally featured on the Scottish Property Federation website.

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