HUMZA Yousaf has committed to backing a rise in council tax on second homes should he win the SNP leadership race.

He said he would allow local authorities to change their rates in their area to collect extra income or discourage second-home ownership.

The Health Secretary announced the policy as part of a strategy which he said will particularly benefit Scotland’s rural areas.

He also unveiled plans for empty homes to be purchased or leased long-term to provide housing for key workers in rural areas.

Yousaf said that £25 million of the Scottish Government’s existing affordable housing allocation would be used to pilot the scheme.

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He said: “I know how important it is for key workers like our NHS staff, police and care workers to have homes near to where they work and how hard that can be in rural areas where second homes drive up prices.

“Those working in hospitality, tourism or rural communities also face problems finding affordable housing in local communities which can really harm local economies.

“As your first choice for Scotland’s first minister, I commit to taking the necessary action to support affordable and key worker housing by allowing councils to increase the council tax on second homes – either ensuring councils have extra resources to invest in housing or encouraging more second homes back into use by local residents.

The National:

“In many cases, it can be quicker and cheaper to buy up or long lease empty homes and bring them back into use than to build new ones.

“I believe part of this SNP Government’s investment in affordable housing should be used to bring empty properties back to life so we can get more people into good quality affordable housing more quickly.”

Yousaf added that the scheme “would also mean more work for smaller local builders and tradesmen to repair and restore those empty properties, ensuring all parts of our economy feel the benefit of turning empty properties back into houses for those who need them the most”.