RICS responds to the Smith Commission

Sarah Speirs
Sarah Speirs

RICS Scotland director Sarah Speirs has welcomed the Heads of Agreements outlined by the Smith Commission for providing “clarity, reassurance and direction” for the Scottish Government following the outcome of the referendum.

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish land, property and construction sectors, Ms Speirs said that if the recommendations are taken forward in legislation, the Scottish Government will have enhanced responsibility and accountability and this should be embraced.

She added: “Within the range of the Heads of Agreement recommendations there is opportunity for the Scottish Government to support Scottish businesses, SMEs in particular, and we hope that any future legislation, should these proposals pass through Westminster, does so.

“By providing control of air passenger duty to the Scottish Government, Scotland-based businesses, tourism and the economy, could benefit from lower taxes on flights from Scotland, should the Scottish Government implement reductions to air passenger duty. However, this could have implications on other UK based airports, particularly those in the north east of England.

“With 70 per cent of the RICS membership in Scotland working within an SME, support for this sector is vital for Scotland’s economy, and we hope that the devolution of VAT receipts, is used to assist local SMEs.

“Furthermore, the announcement that Scotland will have increased borrowing powers for capital investment is welcomed. The Scottish Government’s track record on construction and infrastructure investment is commendable, and we hope the future Government administrations will use this enhanced borrowing to improve confidence in the construction sector. This is vitally important to the Scottish economy, and extend Scotland’s reputation as an attractive arena for investment – for both internal and external investors. Again, this could have implications for the rest of the UK, particularly if the Scottish Government chooses to support certain sectors by lowering taxes. That said, increasing competition, could be beneficial to the UK as whole.

“From a land perspective, RICS welcomes the newly acquired powers in relation to fracking and the Crown Estate. The new powers to approve licenses for onshore oil and gas extraction will, in the long term, assist the voice of local communities and the Scottish Government’s ambitious renewable energy targets.

“We welcome the Commission’s recommendation to embed a dialogue between relevant Scottish and UK Governments which will ensure national infrastructure in relation to the strategic importance of the seabed, and the role it plays in provided integrated energy and communication systems.

“During the run up to the referendum, RICS had suggested that due to the relatively high level of devolved measures that have an effect on housing, we believe that it would be non-property related matters, such as welfare, that would effect on housing. With welfare due to be devolved, we believe this will still be the case - monies spent on welfare, will inevitably have a knock-on effect on the overall housing budget.

“RICS maintains that all parties must work together to provide a robust and comprehensive strategy for implementing the new powers. As a consequence of our Royal Charter, RICS is in a unique, apolitical position to provide a balanced perspective on issues of importance to the land, property and construction sectors. We look forward to working with Scottish and UK Government during the transfer of powers and as the new framework takes hold.”

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