Council Tax for second and empty homes, and non-domestic rates thresholds: consultation

This joint public consultation with COSLA seeks views on giving local authorities the power to increase council tax on second homes and empty homes, as well as considering whether the current non-domestic rates thresholds for self-catering accommodation remain appropriate.


In March 2021 we published Scotland's first national population strategy. Its vision for a future Scotland focused on taking a place-based whole-system approach to drive local needs around the economy, infrastructure, public services and housing.

At the same time the Scottish Government published its Housing to 2040 Strategy. Its bold vision and principles included prioritising homes for living in, and not for accumulating wealth.

In order to deliver this vision, we are taking action to address population needs, including delivering a large affordable housing programme, and taking policy action across a range of areas. We have delivered 118,124 affordable homes since 2007, over 83,000 (83,291) of which were for social rent, including 21,313 council homes. We are committed to delivering a further 110,000 affordable homes by 2032. A total of 7,493 homes have now been delivered, of which 6,172 (82%) are homes for social rent.

Meanwhile over the past decade the growth of online platforms has fuelled the trend for residential homes, particularly in tourist hotspots, to be changed from primary homes to be used for short-term lets or second homes. This can cause problems for neighbours and make it harder for local people, particularly young people or those with fewer resources, to find homes to live in. We also remain concerned about the number of empty homes in Scotland, which could potentially be brought back into use for people to live in.

We recognise that geography can often be an important factor, with concentrations of second and/or empty homes in specific areas across Scotland such as cities like Edinburgh or in rural locations. We will shortly publish a Remote, Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan that has a range of work strands to support councils and other partners to help deliver against our population and housing agenda.

An important aspect of this Plan, and indeed for all of Scotland, is the focus on ensuring local areas can make the best use of their existing housing stock. Our Housing to 2040 Strategy, and our Shared Policy Programme with the Green Party, commits us to providing councils with tools and powers to support them to do so. This includes managing the number of long-term empty homes, short-term lets and second homes.

This consultation specifically seeks views on how local taxation can help achieve this. The proposal is whether to provide additional powers to councils allowing them discretion to:

  • charge up to 100% premium (double the full rate) on council tax for second homes
  • charge more than 100% premium on council tax for second homes and long-term empty homes

This is not about a one size fits all solution. Nationally the aim is to encourage more residential accommodation to be used as homes for living in and for these to be occupied for more of the time. Local areas need to decide how to achieve the right balance in the use of housing to meet local needs and to support thriving communities. That is why we are also asking for views on whether the current non-domestic rates thresholds for self-catering accommodation should change, and/or if councils should have discretion to set them.

We are also keen to hear your views about the current definitions of second and empty homes, the factors councils should take into account when deciding whether to apply council tax premiums and what types of accommodation/ circumstances should be exempt.



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