Humza Yousaf has vowed for empty homes to be used to house NHS staff, police and other key workers as part of plans to bring empty rural properties back into use.

The Health Secretary, who is bidding to become the next first minister, has revealed his proposals for empty properties to be purchased or long leased and turned into housing for key workers and those who need affordable housing in rural areas.

Mr Yousaf has also declared he would back increasing council tax on second homes to encourage them back into full time use by owners who leave properties vacant.

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The SNP leadership candidate plans to use £25 million of the Scottish Government’s existing affordable housing allocation to pilot the scheme.

He said: “I know how important it is for key workers like our NHS staff, police and care workers to have homes near to where they work and how hard that can be in rural areas where second homes drive up prices.



“Those working in hospitality, tourism or rural communities also face problems finding affordable housing in local communities which can really harm local economies.

“As your first choice for Scotland’s first minister, I commit to taking the necessary action to support affordable and key worker housing by allowing councils to increase the council tax on second homes – either ensuring councils have extra resources to invest in housing or encouraging more second homes back into use by local residents.”

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The Health Secretary warned that “in many cases, it can be quicker and cheaper to buy up or long lease empty homes and bring them back into use” than to build new properties.

Mr Yousaf added: “I believe part of this SNP Government’s investment in affordable housing should be used to bring empty properties back to life so we can get more people into good quality affordable housing more quickly.

“As your next first minister, I’ll commit £25 million of the Scottish Government’s existing investment in affordable homes to launch this pilot.

“That would also mean more work for smaller local builders and tradesmen to repair and restore those empty properties, ensuring all parts of our economy feel the benefit of turning empty properties back into houses for those who need them the most.”

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The policy is similar to that announced by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar at the party’s conference in Edinburgh last month.

The party pledged to reform compulsory purchase rules and buy-up empty homes, selling them to people on low incomes for just £1 and then providing up to £25,000 in government-backed loans to repair the property.

Labour also unveiled plans to increase the council tax on empty properties over time to as much as 500 per cent.

Scottish Labour housing spokesperson, Mark Griffin, said: “It is heart-warming to see Humza Yousaf take on board this important Labour idea – it’s just a shame his track record suggests that he will make a hash of it.

“It seems Mr Yousaf has been forced to not only reheat broken SNP policy promises, but steal Labour ones too.

“Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery – but the people of Scotland know that only Labour can deliver the change that Scotland needs.”