Non domestic rates/council tax on second and empty homes: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

1. Where is the proof that double taxing second homes will increase access to affordable housing? Where is the evidence in the Consultation?

2. Please provide confirmation that collation of responses does not just consist of filling in this form by proxy to create a faux statistical analysis.

3. You have not stated clearly that there is no legal duty for councils to spend any of the money raised from this exercise on housing. Is that not a misrepresentation In Scotland to accept money from someone where they expect you to spend that money on one item and your intention is to spend it on another item is fraud?

4. How will you identify second home owners on islands?

5. Could you quantify the total historic uncollected council tax debt and calculate how many homes that money could have built over the period since 2007. Who has been held accountable for the failure to collect these debts?

6. 83,000 dwellings (3% of housing) in Scotland are totally unused or vacant. This is a much more significant problem. Three times the number of second homes. What are you doing about this?

7. How many homes have been directly physically built by Local Authorities in Scotland since 2013?

8. West Highland Housing Association gained consent for 30 houses at Port Appin in 2012 but has no plans to complete this till 2028. They have quickly built 6 additional houses at Port Appin via a consent granted last year but the original consented 30 houses remain unbuilt. This slow delivery is distorting the demand profiles used in Local plan provision and constricting supply. Where are your levers of power to penalise WHHA?


1. The Consultation paper includes a ‘case for change’ heading in the second homes section. It states, “Taxation is one measure that can support local areas to reach the right balance for their local circumstances, as a means to influence ownership patterns and the detrimental impact they can have on the availability of homes to meet local needs.”

Further information is included in the Draft Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment that was published alongside the Consultation. This document is publicly available and can be found using the following link: business-regulatory-impact-assessment/documents

2. The responses to the Consultation will be analysed by Craigforth, an independent social research and support company. A consultation report produced by Craigforth will be published in Autumn 2023.

3. The Consultation paper states, “Enabling councils to apply a premium on council tax on second homes could also generate additional revenue that could be used to benefit the local community and contribute to affordable housing schemes.”

The Scottish Government published guidance in 2013 and 2018 about council tax on second and long term empty homes. The 2013 guidance set out that, “where income is received from reducing the discount anywhere between 50% and 10% for both long-term empty homes and second-homes, it will be ring-fenced for affordable housing and should be used in accordance with section 4 of this guidance.”

4. The Consultation paper provides the definition of a second homes as currently defined in the Council Tax (Variation for Unoccupied Dwellings) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 as follows: “A ‘second home’ is a dwelling which is no one's sole or main residence but which is furnished and lived in for at least 25 days during the chargeable 12 month period.”

5. Since financial year 1999-2000, the Scottish Government has collected data from local authorities regarding uncollected council tax. This is published annually and available via the Scottish Government website here: Supporting documents - Council Tax Collection Statistics: 2022-2023 - (

We draw your attention to table 1 of the ‘Tables’ document, which contains data regarding uncollected council tax. The total uncollected council tax across Scotland from 1999-2000 up to 31 March 2023 is calculated as £1.342 billion. The number of homes, which could have been built, had this tax been collected, has not been calculated by the Scottish Government.

6. The latest Scottish Government statistics show that as of September 2022 there were 24,287 second homes, 47,156 unoccupied exemptions, and 42,865 long term empty properties that had been empty for more than 6 months. Of those that had been empty for more than 6 months, just under two thirds (27,692) had been empty for over 12 months. Please note that unoccupied exemptions can be granted for a range of reasons but are mainly applied to homes that have been empty and unfurnished for less than 6 months e.g. to give time for sales and moves to take place. Further context is provided in our statistical bulletin and a breakdown of these figures by local authority is available from the Scottish Government website.

Tacking long term empty homes is a priority for Scottish Government. That is why we continue to invest in a range of approaches to help return homes to active use such as the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, the National Acquisition Plan and homes for key workers. Our guidance on local authority discretion to reduce council tax discounts on second and long-term unoccupied homes also sets out how a proportion of the revenue raised can be used by local authorities to support empty homes services.

7. Information on the number of homes built by local authorities is published by the Scottish Government as part of Quarterly Housing Statistics releases that can be accessed in the housing statistics webpages, with the latest release covering new housebuilding starts and completions by sector up to end March 2023.

8. West Highland Housing Association (WHHA) purchased a site in Port Appin using public subsidy, which could accommodate up to 30 homes. WHHA is a housing association, and so require grant support from the Scottish Government in order to provide new affordable housing. Argyll and Bute Council, as the statutory housing authority, determine where the housing development priorities are across the area. A plan is published annually in the Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP), which is available on the Council's website, which guides the allocation of government and other funding.

WHHA was unable to develop any housing on the site until the Council determined that there was sufficient need and demand in this location. A need and demand assessment indicated there was some need in 2022, which is when the Council agreed to an initial phase of 6 units in this location. This was then included in the SHIP and WHHA applied to the Scottish Government for funding.

A more detailed assessment of the local need and demand was carried out once the 6 units were approved, which provided evidence of sufficient need and demand for the remaining 24 units. These will be developed in line with the Council's SHIP over the next 5 years. The timescale for development is determined by a number of factors.

WHHA have followed the procedures and guidance set out for the delivery of affordable housing. If you have concerns about the Local Development Plan in relation to this area we would recommend contacting Argyll and Bute Council as the statutory housing authority.

About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

Back to top