Owners of inherited croft houses should be banned from running the property as a holiday let when housing shortages are acute, a Stornoway-born MSP has suggested.

Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said any properties that were built with "public money" should only be used as a permanent residence.

She said this should also include ex-council houses and said the measure could help address housing shortages in the highlands and islands that are hampering population growth.

The results of Scotland's first Census show areas of the Highlands including  Sutherland and Kinlochleven in Lochaber experienced significant population decline between 2003 to 2020.

The Herald: Kinlochleven has experienced a 17% drop in its population Kinlochleven has experienced a 17% drop in its population (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

The population in the Western Isles is predicted to fall to 24,784 by 2028 from the 2022 figure of 26,200. Housing is repeatedly held up as a barrier to growth.

"We need is a balance of second homes and holiday homes and full-time lived in homes," said the MSP. 

"We live in a beautiful part of the world and I'm not saying we shouldn't have any short-term lets - they provide income to people.

The Herald: Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands said properties built with public money should be kept for the publicRhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands said properties built with public money should be kept for the public (Image: PA)

"Any property that had any public money involved in its creation should never be a second home or holiday home.

"I'm talking about council houses, housing association houses and croft houses which are owner-occupied but built with government grants.

"They should be kept for the public. I'm not saying that people can't sell their croft but it was built with public money for the public good.

"All of those should be retained for day-to-day use and that would be quite easy to do."

She said crofters and landowners were sometimes willing to make land available for housing but this was usually at "exorbitant prices."

The Scottish Government has introduced a series of measures to try to curb second home ownership including doubling council tax but the MSP said this was "not an inhibitor."


"If you got a second home you can afford to pay more council tax," she said. "It's helpful to councils but that's not an inhibitor.

"The licensing scheme caught out people who rent out a room in their house for three months of the year as a B&B. If you are running a business you can afford to do those things.

"It could have been good but the folk who drafted it didn't have a clue about the reality on the ground so they have prevented a lot of people renting out their rooms.

""Scotland-wide legislation doesn't really work. You have to structure it for the local community."

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She said persuading more young people to stay in the Highlands, in particular, was reliant on enhanced public investment.

She said: "There are no jobs, housing is not affordable, schools are closing and health services are being centralised to Inverness.

"You can see the issues in Caithness where people are travelling 200 miles to give birth.

"Everyone talks about the A9 and dualling but north of Inverness, it just gets worse the further north you go and is often blocked by snow and often blocked by cars.

"It's not a good road. We haven't had investment in things like public services for a long time."

Minister for Housing Paul McLennan said: “There are already controls on the use of housing built with public subsidy.

"All homes funded through the Affordable Housing Supply Programme should be used for the purpose intended.

"For social rented and mid-market homes, restrictions regarding the use and occupation of the property will be set out by the landlord as part of the tenancy agreement.

"For shared equity homes, the agreement states the property must be the sole residence of the purchaser and any letting is not permitted.

“With regard to croft houses, the eligibility requirements for the Croft House Grant scheme state the proposed new build or house improvement must be used for domestic purposes only, no part of the house can be used for non-residential purposes such as a B&B or holiday home and the house must be the principal residential home of the crofter.”