General Election 2024: Scottish Civic Trust Manifesto

The Scottish Civic Trust

As the voice of Scotland’s grassroots civic and heritage societies, The Scottish Civic Trust has more than 150 affiliate member groups across Scotland. We celebrate Scotland’s built environment, take action for its improvement and empower its communities.

The Challenge

Scotland’s historic buildings are a reflection of our country’s unique culture, with our built and historic environment playing a significant role in driving economic growth and delivering for communities at a local level. Yet, with over 2,000 buildings officially classified as ‘at risk’, our distinctive built heritage is under threat. At a national level too, the historic environment is facing serious challenges that necessitate support, investment, and effective policies which will incentivise and ensure appropriate maintenance and protection, which will enable and allow the historic environment to continue to deliver for generations to come.

The Solution

The Scottish Civic Trust are at the forefront of advocating for the concerns of Scotland’s civic and heritage groups. So, on behalf of our affiliate membership, we call on UK and Scottish governments to take action to:

1: Abolish the 20% VAT rate on maintaining and repairing historic buildings

This punitive tax discourages the redevelopment and re-use of our historic buildings which are often key unique and important buildings, around which the identities of communities are established and thrive. New build projects benefit from a 0% VAT rate which encourages new buildings at the expense of maintaining and enhancing existing and historic building stock. This tax is a financial disincentive to the preservation of our unique built heritage and directly contributes to the needless loss of the special architectural and historic interest of communities.

Estimates from the Institute of Historic Building Conservation suggest that a reduction from 20% to 5% on heritage repairs and maintenance could result in a £15 billion boost to the economy, the creation of 95,000 new jobs across the UK, and a carbon reduction of 240,000 tonnes of CO2.

2: Introduce a presumption against the demolition of historic buildings

As well as contributing to civic pride and wellbeing, our built environment can help us to achieve our challenging Net Zero targets, as the greenest buildings are the ones that already exist.

Removing the 20% VAT will incentivise the regeneration and reuse of historic buildings over demolition, reducing the carbon footprint of the UK through the retention of Embodied Carbon. This will ensure that communities have access to well-maintained and retrofitted homes and public buildings, as well as contributing to urban renewal and revival. This presumption will also enable the creation and promotion of new skills and traditional skills which are currently at risk.