A public consultation has shown support for councils being able to take increased action against empty homes.

The Scottish Government has published the findings of its public consultation which found most respondents believed local authorities should be able to increase taxation on second and long term empty homes.

A total of 60 per cent of responses favoured higher council tax premiums on homes which have been empty for longer than one year, rather than the current maximum of 100 per cent of council tax.

Of around 1,000 responses from various organisations and the public, the only group which was opposed to tax penalties for empty properties was the tourism sector. However the survey indicated most responses supported doubling council tax as an incentive to bring empty homes back into use, although the triple tax premium seen in Wales was deemed to be excessive.

The publication of the findings was welcomed by regional Labour MSP Mark Griffin, who has been campaigning on this issue. In addition to increased taxes he is also calling for councils to be granted powers to carry out compulsory purchases of empty properties.

Mr Griffin said:  “This issue has been on the agenda for almost a decade yet we are still awaiting action. During this period of inaction, the number of long-term of empty homes has ballooned and now sits at more than 44,000 across Scotland including 1,846 here in North Lanarkshire.

 “The results of this consultation clearly show that there is strong support for a council tax escalator on long-term empty homes which, if used properly, would incentivise absentee owners to bring their property into use.

 “I reiterate my call for the Scottish Government to bring forward plans for a council tax escalator alongside the introduction of Compulsory Sales Orders (CSOs) and Compulsory Rental Orders (CROs).”

Cumbernauld South councillor James McPhilemy agreed, adding: “There are a number of long-term empty homes in Cumbernauld, some of which have fallen into severe disrepair.

 “Under current legislation there is very little that councils can do to compel private owners to act, even when an empty, derelict, property is causing significant problems for other residents.

“A new council tax escalator on long-term empty homes alongside the introduction of Compulsory Sales Orders would not solve the issue overnight, but they would be useful tools to help bring vacant properties back into use.”