Friday 25 July 2003

In praise of second home owners

I note that Scottish local authorities want to abolish the 50% discount on council taxes that is currently enjoyed by owners of second homes. Unsurprisingly, the Herald weighs in on the side of the class war:
It looks set to pit the executive against the owners of 60,000 properties in Scotland - including Sir Paul McCartney, JK Rowling and Mohamed al Fayed - which are exempt from the full fee.
I wasn't surprised to read that there is a lack of understanding of the potential benefits of tax competition between different authorities:
One of the councils, Argyll and Bute, has called on the executive to make the removal of the discount mandatory in legislation, and "applied consistently by every Scottish local authority".
They want their increased tax take but can't stand the idea of a rival authority luring away their victims.

I myself benefited from the 50% discount for some years. My current home in Edinburgh was purchased in 1995 and was occupied about 2 days a month until we moved here permanently early last year. I have no doubt that my usage of the City Council's services was well under 50% during those years and having the property here meant that a very large proportion of my holiday expenditure benefited the Edinburgh economy and would otherwise have been spent elsewhere.

Scotland is one of the few places in Europe that has a falling population. Many rural areas depend on second home owners, many of whom eventually move here permanently. If councils are worried about locals being unable to afford high house prices perhaps an attack on our outmoded planning laws would be in order. Keep the discount or, better still, privatise local government.