SCOTLAND should follow the lead of Wales by introducing a council tax premium four times the normal rate on second and empty homes to help tackle the housing crisis, a leading trade union body has argued.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said the radical measure could generate “vital” extra resources for local authorities north of the Border – and an even higher rate should also be considered.

The call to allow councils to charge a 300% premium on the normal council tax rate has been made in a response to a Scottish Government consultation on whether owners of second homes or empty properties should pay more.

The proposal would mean instead of paying a normal rate of £1000 for example, the owners of a second home could face a bill as high as £4000.

In the submission, the union stated: “Councils in Wales can levy a premium of up to 300% and the legislation in Scotland should be equivalent to this level – or higher.

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“Meanwhile, in England, you can be charged up to four times your normal council tax bill if your home has been empty for 10 years or more.”

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “Scotland is facing a simultaneous housing crisis, a public sector funding crisis and a cost-of-living crisis putting an unbearable strain on working people.

“Second homes and short-term lets can have significantly negative impacts on communities, exasperating these crises as well as undermining the local economy.

The National:

“We cannot ever hope to solve the chronic lack of housing, with the unforgivable levels of homelessness throughout the country, if the Scottish Government continues down this path of reinforcing renterism.

“A premium on council tax for homes that are not in use, second homes and short-term lets would provide vital extra resources for local authorities, helping incentivise homes into use, raise revenue and bring down rents in the long term.

“There is wealth in Scotland. It’s high time it was shared.”

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Currently councils in Scotland have the option to charge double the normal rate of council tax if a property has been unoccupied for more than 12 months.

The Scottish Government consultation, which opened in April, is seeking views on whether councils should also be able to charge this rate on second homes from April next year.

And the option to grant further powers to charge more than double rate on both empty and second homes in future years is also being considered.

Announcing the consultation First Minister Humza Yousaf 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.”

In Wales, local authorities were given powers to charge a council tax premium of up to 300% on second homes and empty long-term lets in April this year.

Five councils have so far increased the premium for second homes, with the highest in Gwynedd, which voted to set it at 150%.