A BORDERS MP has hit out at rules governing who can rent office space at the £5.2 million Galashiels Interchange building.

He is furious that, despite being around 80 per cent empty, Scottish Borders Council is forced to turn away prospective tenants due to stipulations put in place by the Scottish Government and the European funding which partially paid for the building.

In September, MP John Lamont (Cons) applied to rent space in Waverley Chambers as a second constituency office. 

However, he discovered that because the building was partially funded by EU money, the majority of the space has to be occupied by small or medium sized businesses (SMEs).

SBC invested £3.4 million into the building, which opened in August 2015, with the rest of the money coming from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). As a result, the council is paying back £200,000 a year over 30 years.

John Lamont MP said: “The office space at Waverley Chambers is a fantastic facility with excellent transport links. The question is, how many others who would be interested in renting some office space are being turned away because they do not meet these conditions.

“I even offered to vacate the office if a suitable SME was found, which seemed like a reasonable compromise. I was therefore disappointed that the council were told by the Scottish Government that there was no possibility of being flexible.

“It appears that the Scottish Government would prefer for this space to remain empty rather than for the taxpayer to get some return on their investment. Meanwhile, Scottish Borders Council are having to pay back their investment in the largely empty building and at the same time turn away prospective tenants.

“There are already too many empty properties in Galashiels and we’re not going to turn this around by making it harder for people to rent space. I hope that common sense will prevail and the council are allowed some degree of flexibility.

“Council officials have gone out of their way to find a way around this but the Scottish Government has refused to budge.”

Galashiels Councillor Euan Jardine (Cons) said: “I was very disappointed to hear that willing tenants are being turned away from the Interchange because of a lack of flexibility from the Scottish Government.

“The result of this is that property continues to remain empty and access to an elected member of Parliament is being denied for one of the largest populated areas of the constituency.

“As one of the local councillors in Galashiels, I feel this is a strong message from Holyrood that they would rather tie themselves up in red tape than let elected representatives get to work on behalf of the people of Galashiels.” 

SBC said: “Public sector uses are excluded from using this space as it was specifically developed to support new and growing businesses. It is for this reason that Mr Lamont’s request was rejected by the council.

“Any business interested in renting office space in the Interchange should contact Edwin Thompson LLP at: galashiels@edwin-thompson.co.uk”