SOME landowners leave rural properties empty to keep neighbours away, MSPs have been told.

More than 105,000 residential properties lie vacant across the country, according to the National Records of Scotland, despite ongoing housing pressures that have seen the Holyrood administration commit to delivering 50,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of this parliament.

Today the cross-party Local Government and Communities Committee will hold its first evidence session as it undertakes an inquiry into the issue.

In its submission to the inquiry, Scottish Land and Estates, which represents landowners, says taxation is a key cause of empty properties and the success of rural tourism has made holding onto unoccupied properties as owners are liable for capital gains tax in certain circumstances.

It also says some landowners deliberately keep accommodation empty to stop other people intruding on their peace.

The submission states: “Some people buying rural landholdings for their recreation, retirement, relative seclusion and wildlife do not want others living close to their holiday or retirement home. They are content for houses in our countryside to be left empty, abandoned or converted to other uses.”

Witnesses set to appear before the committee today include Shaheena Din, national manager of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), and Rural Housing Scotland chief executive Derek Logie.

In its submission, Rural Housing Scotland says action must be taken to ease supply problems in non-urban areas. Describing the pressures affecting particular areas, it says almost 6% of properties in the village of Braemar – which has the highest average house prices in the Cairngorms National Park – are empty.

Another 22% of residences are second homes, it is claimed.

Meanwhile, more than 6% of homes in both Aberfeldy and Kinloch Rannoch are unoccupied – above the Perthshire average of under 4% – and the near-6% empty rate for the west of Arran is almost double the North Ayrshire average of 3%.

In northern parts of Orkney, the level of empty homes rises to 17%, it is claimed.

Meanwhile, in another submission to the committee, the SEHP and Shelter Scotland detail financial and practical issues that can see habitable pads left to decay.

These include repossession, a lack of market demand, the owner entering residential care and other factors.

However, it says “sentimental” logic can also keep addresses off the market, stating: “There is also the ‘human element’ that can be the reason that homes are empty.

“Empty homes officers often find people are reluctant to let go of properties for sentimental reasons – a house is a home with memories of relatives and loved ones – or other reasons that would defy economic rationality – we are aware of one case where a property was bought almost twenty years ago with the intention of it becoming a family home.

“The purchaser’s partner did not take the same view and refused to move in. Nonetheless the purchaser still holds on to the property in the unlikely possibility of it eventually becoming their home.”

Working with councils, the SEHP has helped bring more than 4300 residences back into use since its establishment in 2010.

All but 10 of the country’s local authorities now have dedicated empty homes officers.

However, SEHP says there remains a lack of “accurate data to identify the scale of the problem across the country” to inform efforts to tackle the issue. It aims to carry out a national survey later this year to address these information gaps.

Committee convener James Dornan MSP said: “Although there can be a number of reasons why a property is empty, these houses can have a damaging impact on communities throughout Scotland.

“While some local authorities have introduced an empty homes officer to help tackle this issue, the committee is determined to learn of any other workable solutions which can bring these properties back into use and reduce this blight on cities, towns and villages across the country.”