Scottish islanders call holiday homes “economic clearance”

UK: A group of Scottish islanders have accused holiday homes of causing “economic clearance,” due to rising property prices.

Outsiders purchasing second homes and holiday lets have been accused of underpinning a prohibitive price increase.

The complaint was listed in an open letter published across multiple social media sites. Campaigners from various islands claimed that holiday lets were up to 40 per cent of the total housing stock.

The letter read: “Part-time residencies do not sustain our communities and we should therefore ensure that houses are bought with the intention of being a primary residency. Inaction will allow this economic clearance to be consolidated in history.”

The use of the term clearances references to the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries. During this period, a combination of economic and political pressures led to the forced eviction of thousands of Highland tenant farmers.

The lack of stock on islands such as Benbecula, Mull, Uist, Skye and Luing makes it difficult for young families to stay on their islands. Young people are encouraged to head to the mainland where property is cheaper.

Property prices across the Western Isles region were over £123,000 in the 12 months to March this year, in comparison the Scottish average of £182,357. These have risen by over 121 per cent since 2004, with Argyll and Bute rising 78 per cent, Shetland rising, 151 per cent, and Orkney rising 148 per cent.

Multiple Scottish politicians have proposed potential solutions, including Green MSP Andy Wightman, who proposed holiday homes require planning consent. Wightman is at the centre of Edinburgh’s struggle to legislate short-term rentals.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish minister for energy, connectivity and the Islands, also acknowledged the letter’s concerns. 2019’s National Plan for Scotland’s Islands raised major concerns about housing affordability on the islands.

Islanders suggested advertising property locally before being listed on a wider market. This may help keep housing stock within a smaller community.