COUNCILS could charge more than double the full rate of council tax on second homes under new plans.

The proposal is part of a new Scottish Government and Cosla consultation to help increase available housing.

First Minister Humza Yousaf will announce the plans at the Scottish Trades Union Congress on Monday.

The proposed changes would enable councils to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes from April 2024, bringing them in line with long-term empty homes.

The consultation will also contain plans to charge more than double the rate on both empty and second homes in future years.

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Latest figures show that in January 2023 there were 42,865 long-term empty homes in Scotland.

The consultation will also ask for views on whether there should be changes to the definition of when a property offering self-catered accommodation becomes liable for non-domestic rates.

Currently, this happens if it is let for a total of 70 nights and is available to let for 140 nights in a financial year.

Ahead of the consultation opening, the First Minister said: “We want everyone in Scotland to have an affordable home that meets their needs and this work to improve the availability of sustainable long-term housing opportunities is a core part of that.

“By recognising the important role councils have in considering local needs, these proposals aim to strike a balance between good housing supply and helping communities to thrive and benefit from tourism.

“I encourage anyone who is interested to respond to the consultation as we try to prioritise homes for living in, seeking a fair contribution to local services from everyone and recognising the benefits to local economies from self-catering accommodation and second homes.

“All responses will be carefully considered before legislation is introduced to the Scottish Parliament.”

Cosla resources spokesperson councillor Katie Hagmann said Scottish local government is “committed to supporting access for everyone in Scotland to an affordable home”.

She said: “That is why we are pleased to be launching this joint consultation, as we work to meet the shared aim of creating the right balance to increase the availability of housing and a taxation system that is fair for the tourism industry.

“We also welcome the greater fiscal empowerment for councils to reflect local circumstances this would introduce.”

The Scottish Greens said the council tax changes on second homes are vital to tackling the housing crisis.

Scottish Greens finance spokesperson Ross Greer MSP said: “Homes are for living in, not for hoarding. Everyone should have access to good quality and affordable housing.

"Yet, all across Scotland, particularly in rural communities, there are perfectly good houses sitting empty for most of the year as holiday homes.

"This is at the same time as thousands of families sit on housing waiting lists and young people are forced to leave the communities they have grown up in due to a lack of affordable homes.

"These Council Tax plans sit alongside other crucial measures that we have already introduced, like the increased tax on the initial purchase of second and holiday homes.

"Not only will they raise vital funds to support public services during the cost of living crisis, they will collectively act as a disincentive on second home ownership and free up more homes for those who really need them."

“With this kind of bold action, we can tackle the broken housing market, make it easier for younger people in particular to buy their first home and help rural communities to thrive.”

Scottish Labour housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said the proposals are a “pale imitation” of his party’s plans.

He said: “Under the SNP, Scotland has developed a housing crisis that has priced thousands out of the market and left many more in precarious residential situations.

“Tinkering around the edges won’t do.

“Humza Yousaf must learn from Labour and implement a proper council tax accelerator on empty homes to fund a £1 home policy.”