Prioritising homes for living in

Susan Thomson

Local authorities will be able to charge a premium of up to 100% on council tax for second homes under legislation aiming to increase the availability of housing.

If approved by Parliament, the secondary legislation would bring second homes into line with long-term empty homes, which can already be subject to a 100% premium on the full rate of council tax. Latest figures show that as at September 2022 there were 24,287 second homes in Scotland.

Second and long-term empty homes are subject to a default 50% discount on council tax. However, local authorities can vary council tax charges and the majority already charge second home-owners the full rate of council tax, the maximum currently permitted.

If approved, the new measures are expected to come into force by April 2024.

The legislation, which was subject to a public consultation this year, is a Programme for Government 2023 commitment. It also delivers on the Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 strategy and Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Green Party, which include commitments to give councils power to make the best use of housing stock in their areas, including second homes.

Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur said:

“We want everyone in Scotland to have an affordable home that meets their needs. While second homes can bring benefits to local economies, we know they can also affect local housing stock, pushing up prices for those looking to buy or rent. That’s why we’re bringing in this legislation encouraging more housing to be used as homes to live in, seeking a fair contribution to local services from everyone.

“Under the Verity House Agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA, we have committed to give councils greater flexibility to meet local needs. This legislation shows how we are putting this into action, giving councils more powers over how housing is used so they can meet local needs and support thriving communities.”

COSLA Resources Spokesperson Councillor Katie Hagmann said:

“We absolutely welcome the ability for councils to take the decision to increase the premium on second homes up to 100%. This means decisions can be made locally by the elected politicians closest to the people in their communities about what best suits local needs and circumstances.

“This is the Verity House Agreement in action, rightly giving councils greater flexibility for local decision-making to meet local need in their communities.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Scottish Government on this and other elements which were consulted on, and we see this as an opportunity to further improve the council tax system.”


Consultation on council tax for second and empty homes, and non-domestic rates thresholds

Housing statistics: Empty properties and second homes