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by Kirsteen Paterson
08 November 2023
Council tax hike for second homes in Scotland put before MSPs

Arran, North Ayrshire, is amongst the areas popular with second home owners. Image: John Morrison/Alamy

Council tax hike for second homes in Scotland put before MSPs

Legislation that could see second home owners paying double the full rate of council tax have been laid before the Scottish Parliament.

If approved by MSPs, councils will be able to apply a premium on properties which are not used as a main residence.

The Scottish Government published the proposal in September, with the policy included in Humza Yousaf's first Programme for Government as FM.

It will bring payment rules for second homes into line with those for long-term empty homes, and could be in place as soon as April.

A consultation run with council body Cosla found a majority in support of the move, which will affect properties occupied for at least 25 days per year.

The Scottish Government hopes the legislation will help to address housing pressures and bring in a "fair contribution towards local services" for councils.

Public finance minister Tom Arthur said: "We know second homes can sometimes benefit local communities, but they can also restrict the availability of housing and increase costs for people who want to rent or buy.

"Subject to approval by parliament, this legislation aims to prioritise housing for living in by allowing local authorities to charge a council tax premium on second homes.”

Councillor Katie Hagmann, resources spokesperson at Cosla, said the umbrella body "very much welcomes the ability for councils to take the decision to increase the premium on second homes in their areas". 

She said giving local politicians authority over the matter is "well aligned to the Verity House Agreement".

That deal, struck between Cosla and the Scottish Government after Yousaf came to office, has been strained by his council tax freeze announcement.

Made at the SNP conference, it was presented as a cost-of-living measure but was not agreed with Cosla before being revealed, breaching a "no surprises" clause in the Verity House Agreement.

Yesterday the Scottish Government said it was "determined to deliver" the freeze, following a statement from Cosla which said its members had made "no agreement" with ministers on the matter.

Yousaf has said central government will fund the policy. However, no details have yet been confirmed.

Scottish Greens finance spokesperson Ross Greer MSP said the premium on second homes could raise "tens of millions" for local services and "will be a really important tool to help tackle the inequality of huge housing shortages in the very same communities as many second and holiday homes sit empty for most of the year".

He said: "Housing is a human right. We should all be able to access good quality and affordable homes. Yet all across Scotland there are people being priced out of the areas they grew up in while thousands more are stuck on waiting lists."

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