LOCAL authorities could be given the power to double council tax rates for second homes from April, under new proposals to be put before Holyrood.

The Scottish Government is to seek to make changes to legislation that would allow authorities to charge a premium of up to 100% of the full rate of council tax on second properties.

First Minister Humza Yousaf signalled the move when he announced his Programme for Government earlier this week.

The latest figures show there were 24,287 second homes in Scotland last September, and public finance minister Tom Arthur said the Government wants to see “more housing to be used as homes to live in”.

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The changes could come in as early as April next year if approved by the Scottish Parliament.

As it stands, second and long-term empty homes can get a 50% discount on council tax bills – but with councils having some ability to vary charges, the majority of second home owners already have to pay the full rate of tax.

Arthur (below) said the new deal signed between the Scottish Government and council body Cosla earlier this year – known as the Verity House Agreement – had seen Holyrood ministers commit to giving authorities “greater flexibility” to respond to local needs.

The National: Tom Arthur

He said: “We want everyone in Scotland to have an affordable home that meets their needs.

“While second homes can bring benefits to local economies, we know they can also affect local housing stock, pushing up prices for those looking to buy or rent.

“That’s why we’re bringing in this legislation encouraging more housing to be used as homes to live in, seeking a fair contribution to local services from everyone.

“Under the Verity House Agreement between the Scottish Government and Cosla, we have committed to give councils greater flexibility to meet local needs.

“This legislation shows how we are putting this into action, giving councils more powers over how housing is used so they can meet local needs and support thriving communities.”

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Cosla resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said: “We absolutely welcome the ability for councils to take the decision to increase the premium on second homes up to 100%.

“This means decisions can be made locally by the elected politicians closest to the people in their communities about what best suits local needs and circumstances.

“This is the Verity House Agreement in action, rightly giving councils greater flexibility for local decision-making to meet local need in their communities.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Scottish Government on this and other elements which were consulted on, and we see this as an opportunity to further improve the council tax system.”