The National:

OUR rural and remote communities in Scotland already often live with limited access to healthcare and other services, and are sometimes poorly served by public transport. Any crisis in housing provision therefore has a big impact, because services and amenities need communities to be viable, and it is homes that make communities.

Measures to increase the number of affordable homes have tended to focus around Inverness and other cities, but more remote communities need that provision too. For example, one development which was categorised as “accessible rural” was in Birdiehouse in South Edinburgh. That's far from the rurality of the Western Isles.

Clearly, the notion of increasing the number of affordable homes in Scotland is a good one, but it can better serve the rural communities where it would see a positive social impact. For many of these communities, however, it is as much about what happens with the existing housing stock as it about new housing.

The fact is local communities can be easily outbid by wealthy second property – it will never be a second “home” – buyers or prospectors buying holiday homes.

There have been concerns from councils and charities about the impact of holiday homes in parts of the Highlands since the 1970s, and it’s certainly a problem that hasn’t gone away. If anything, things have escalated with the explosion of short terms lets, a sector which is worryingly unregulated.

Vested commercial interests have the power to distort any proposal they see as threatening their profits and some are presently hard at work on the issue of “short-term lets”.

The Highlands and Islands have seen a proliferation in houses being used as short-terms lets. This density of use makes it extremely hard for local people to obtain homes, an increasing problem across the Highlands and Islands, particularly so in places like Badenoch and Strathspey, Lochaber, with all year around tourist trade, and on the islands of Mull and Skye.

The National: The Isle of SkyeThe Isle of Skye

READ MORE: Scotland needs a hutting revolution to curb growth of holiday homes

We want to welcome people from around the world to visit our wonderful region. However, there needs to be an appropriate mix of use of houses. Fundamentally, we need homes to make communities and, if we can’t house our young people, we will simply become a barren theme park, driven by another Highland Clearances.

Apart from anything else, it is the welcome of Scotland’s thriving communities that visitors want to see. The Scottish Government’s plans on licensing short terms lets is open to consultation, which is open until 16th October and can be found here.

Whilst the detail remains to be agreed, the Scottish Green Party supports a licensing scheme for short-term lets using powers under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, giving local authorities the much-needed power to introduce short-term let control areas under powers in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.

I don’t believe we can continue to allow unregulated dwellings which may not meet health and safety standards. We can no longer permit property owners who have failed to secure the appropriate authority in terms of planning law to operate as a business to get away with that. We cannot ignore the potential implications for what local and national taxes should be paid.

Communities thrive when they can make decisions locally, not have things done to them, and the rural housing crisis is a good example of that. They can’t do that if they are priced out and excluded from their own area.

Let’s ensure the Highlands and Islands can house its resident population in thriving communities.