SNP ministers have tabled plans to allow local authorities to double the amount of council tax due on second and empty homes in a bid to free up more housing stock.

The Scottish Government’s proposals will be included in a new consultation to help increase housing availability.

First Minister Humza Yousaf will announce proposals at the Scottish Trades Union Congress today, which could give local councils powers to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes from April 2024.

The proposed change would bring second homes into line with long-term empty homes from next year.

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The joint consultation with Cosla, the umbrella organisation for Scottish councils, will also seek views on further powers to charge more than the double rate on both empty and second homes in future years.

Latest figures show that as of January 2023, there were 42,865 long-term empty homes in Scotland.

The consultation will also ask for views on whether there should be changes to the definition of when a property offering self-catered accommodation becomes liable for non-domestic rates.

Mr 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.

“I encourage anyone who is interested to respond to the consultation as we try to prioritise homes for living in, seeking a fair contribution to local services from everyone and recognising the benefits to local economies from self-catering accommodation and second homes.

“All responses will be carefully considered before legislation is introduced to the Scottish Parliament.”

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Cosla resources spokesperson, Katie Hagmaan, said: “Local government in Scotland is committed to supporting access for everyone in Scotland to an affordable home.

“That is why we are pleased to be launching this joint consultation, as we work to meet the shared aim of creating the right balance to increase the availability of housing and a taxation system that is fair for the tourism industry.”

She added: “We also welcome the greater fiscal empowerment for councils to reflect local circumstances this would introduce. Any additional funding created by these changes under consultation will enable councils to invest in local needs and support sustainable communities.

“We are pleased to be jointly working with the Scottish Government on this vital area of work and we look forward to considering the responses.”

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But Scottish Labour has accused Mr Yousaf of merely “tinkering around the edges”.

Scottish Labour housing spokesperson, Mark Griffin, said: “While it is welcome to see that this SNP Government is willing to listen to Labour ideas, it is a shame that all they can bring themselves to do is a pale imitation of Scottish Labour’s plans.

“Under the SNP, Scotland has developed a housing crisis that has priced thousands out of the market and left many more in precarious residential situations.”

He added: “Tinkering around the edges won’t do.

“Humza Yousaf must learn from Labour and implement a proper council tax accelerator on empty homes to fund a £1 home policy.”