Local authorities will be able to charge double the full rate of council tax on second homes in Scotland, according to legislation laid before Holyrood today.

The plans were announced last September in the Programme for Government and were formally tabled today in the Scottish Parliament.

Currently, second homes are subject to a default 50% discount on council tax.

READ MORE: Council tax on second homes to double from April under SNP-Green plan

However, local authorities can vary charges and the majority already charge second home-owners the full rate of council tax, the maximum allowed.

The new legislation will treat second homes like long-term empty homes from April 1, 2024.

In the 2024-25 financial year, it will be based on rates from 2023-24.

More than half of people (55%) were in favour of the change according to a Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) consultation.

READ MORE: Councillor labels Highland second homes 'modern clearances by stealth'

Public finance minister Tom Arthur said: “We want everyone in Scotland to have a home that meets their needs. We know second homes can sometimes benefit local communities, but they can also restrict the availability of housing and increase costs for people who want to rent or buy.

“Subject to approval by Parliament, this legislation aims to prioritise housing for living in by allowing local authorities to charge a council tax premium on second homes. Backed by a majority of respondents to our joint consultation with Cosla, it will enable councils to seek a fair contribution towards local services from second-home owners.”

Cosla resources spokesperson councillor Katie Hagmann said: “Subject to Parliamentary approval, Cosla very much welcomes the ability for councils to take the decision to increase the premium on second homes in their areas.

“Allowing the politicians who are closest to their communities to take decisions about what best suits local needs and circumstances is well aligned to the Verity House Agreement.”

The policy will help meet the housing commitments set out in the Bute House Agreement between the Scottish Greens and Scottish Government.

Scottish Greens finance spokesperson, Ross Greer MSP, said: “This will be a really important tool to help tackle the inequality of huge housing shortages in the very same communities as many second and holiday homes sit empty for most of the year. It will also raise tens of millions of pounds for local services like schools and social care.

“Housing is a human right. We should all be able to access good quality and affordable homes. Yet, all across Scotland there are people being priced out of the areas they grew up in while thousands more are stuck on waiting lists. 

“With bold steps like this we will shift the balance away from second home ownership and free up more homes for those who really need them.

“This action on second homes comes on top of our work to cap private rents to protect tenants over the last year, the new system of regulation for short-term holiday lets recently introduced, and our commitment to build 110,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years.  

“Homes should be for people who most need them first.”

A second home is classed as any that is not used as someone’s primary residence but is occupied for at least 25 days in a year.

Wednesday’s draft legislation comes after Scotland’s councils expressed outrage over not being consulted about a freeze on council tax next year that Humza Yousaf announced at the SNP conference in October.

Cosla described the move by the First Minister as “deplorable” and said it had no prior warning.

The Scottish Greens, which only found out hours before the announcement at the SNP conference, also criticised the tax freeze.

But Mr Yousaf said Scots were filled with “dread” as bills continued to go “up and up” and said council tax would be frozen.