SECOND homes come with many benefits for their presumably well-heeled owners. They can be peaceful escapes on holidays or at the weekend. They can be sound long-term investments, and useful sources of revenue via short-term lets. Research carried out by the Resolution Foundation in 2017 found that more than five million people – one in 10 adults – now have second homes. There has, of course, long been a debate about the impact of second homes on their neighbourhoods. Do they inflate property prices? Do they price local people out of the housing market? To what extent do they benefit local economies?

Whatever the pros and cons, it’s interesting to note the 2016 referendum in St Ives, Cornwall, prompted by an increase in the number of holiday homes and a shortage of affordable housing, and in which more than 80 per cent of residents voted to reserve new homes for full-time residents. Last September, Labour pledged that should it win the next election, it would apply an average levy of £3,000 on second properties used as holiday homes in a move aimed at easing the nationwide housing crisis.

Today’s disclosures about the sharp decline in the number of new homes registered in Scotland, caused by factors including a three per cent supplement of the total purchase price of "additional residential properties" costing £40,000 or more, make intriguing reading. As Shelter Scotland says, the country has far too many homes that lie empty for more than six months of the year. They reduce housing-stock availability when, again according to the charity, a household becomes homeless in Scotland every 18 minutes. There are too many children living in hostels, too many homeless people freezing on the streets.

The Scottish Government has pledged to build 50,000 new homes within the lifetime of the parliament. With luck, the decline in second homes will help ease the housing crisis and also give encouragement to first-time buyers.