Scottish Government to consider recovering energy payments from second-home owners

Scottish Government to consider recovering energy payments from second-home owners

The Scottish Government has agreed to explore ways it can recover a cost-of-living rebate given to owners of second homes.

The plans were announced by public finance minister Tom Arthur at Holyrood during a debate on the UK Government’s energy bills support scheme yesterday.

All households in the UK are set to receive a £400 grant from October in a bid to reduce the impact of rising energy bills.

However, there has been criticism over the fact that second-home owners would be set to receive more than one £400 payment under the plans.

The minister told MSPs it is “clearly wrong” that the rebate will be received by people who can afford second homes or who own properties that are empty on a long-term basis.

Scottish Labour MSP Mark Griffin, who brought the debate to Holyrood, said on Wednesday that the scheme will not deliver fairness across Scotland, adding that support to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis should be given to those who need it the most.

His party had called for the funding to be recovered and used to support low-income households in order to close what he called a “loophole” in the scheme.

Mr Griffin said: “We often talk about someone having to choose between heating and eating, but actually, the reality is that thousands will choose between starving or freezing.

“People will die this winter. That’s a crisis that will only get worse, so the Government must respond with action.

“The irony won’t be lost on anyone, then, that those best off, those able to run not one, but two homes, are set to pocket a windfall of almost £10m between them, simply because they have another home that’s not their main residence.”

Mr Arthur confirmed the Scottish Government will be taking such an action, undertaking work alongside Scotland’s local governments and Cosla to explore options for recovering the money and how best to use it.

He told MSPs that he would be writing to COSLA on the matter.

The SNP MSP said: “In this cost-of-living crisis, it is vital resources are directed at those who need it most, so it is clearly wrong that second home owners or those who own long term empty homes benefit from a second £400 energy rebate.

“The Scottish Government will work with Cosla and local government to examine how to recover this money, including through a council tax levy.

“We will also work with them to examine how to use the funds raised to support local cost-of-living responses on a fair and equitable basis across Scotland.

“Through the budget for 2022/23, the Scottish Government has allocated almost £3bn to a range of support that will contribute to mitigating the impact of the increased cost of living on households.

“This includes work to tackle child poverty, reduce inequalities and support financial wellbeing, alongside social security payments not available anywhere else in the UK.”

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