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Estate agent's second home marketing in Highlands under fire from Ross-shire Holyrood hopeful


By Scott Maclennan

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Molly Nolan says the Highland housing crisis needs to be addressed and isn't helped by properties being marketed as second or holiday homes.
Picture: Gary Anthony.
Molly Nolan says the Highland housing crisis needs to be addressed and isn't helped by properties being marketed as second or holiday homes. Picture: Gary Anthony.

AN estate agent has been challenged over marketing rural Highland properties as second homes at a time when the region is suffering a housing crisis.

Molly Nolan, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, named Galbraith a "repeat offender" with properties in Garve, Ardgay, Lochinver, Ullapool, Portmahomack, Brora, Dornoch, Lochcarron and Kyle all being listed as having “second home or holiday let potential”.

Her broadside comes amid the Scottish Government’s bid to regulate short-term lets from April 2023 due to the challenging housing situation in rural areas where many claim they are being priced out of the market.

Ms Nolan said: “Working age Highlanders cannot afford to live in their own communities because house prices have been driven sky-high by second home owners and holiday let operators. Meanwhile, estate agents are profiting off the Highland housing crisis.

“Our local communities are being torn apart at the seams, surrounded by properties that lie empty for the vast majority of the year.

"The Scottish Government needs to take urgent action to regulate second homes in the Highlands and stop property agents like Galbraith from exacerbating this crisis.”

While there is no question of any laws being broken, the candidate says she is “filled with despair” over the issue of putting profits before communities in marketing to affluent buyers outside the region.

The estate agent was approached to comment but refused to do so.

The post triggered a lengthy response from the Daily Gael, a satirical online website that speaks out for the rights of Gaelic speakers in the north.

It stated: “Second homes drive up prices, and people out. There may be a place for holiday homes, but we are so far past that. People making a living servicing holidays homes can't afford to buy homes at inflated prices.

"The Highlands and Islands could be so much more than a glorified scenic service station.

“Proliferation of second homes and over-reliance on tourism is a scam that keeps the Highlands easy to buy in to and impossible to live in, unless you have already established a base somewhere else.

“I am sure that most that grow up here feel that deep sense that things are not right – it shouldn't be so empty, my friends shouldn't all have to move away, we should know what the place names mean and who our neighbours are. There should be lights on in the Winter.”

Ms Nolan said: “Working age Highlanders cannot afford to live in their own communities because house prices have been driven sky-high by second home owners and holiday let operators. Meanwhile, estate agents are profiting off the Highland housing crisis.

“Our local communities are being torn apart at the seams, surrounded by properties that lie empty for the vast majority of the year.

"The Scottish Government needs to take urgent action to regulate second homes in the Highlands and stop property agents like Galbraith from exacerbating this crisis.”

And that work involves a consultation by the government on the issue has won the strong support of leading Highland MSP and Finance Minister Kate Forbes, who recently backed the idea of housing developments for Gaelic speakers.

Last September, she welcomed a consultation of the licensing of short-term lets. Among the proposals were mandatory licensing, control areas so local authorities can help manage high excessive secondary letting, and taxation to make sure short-term lets make an appropriate contribution to local communities and services.

Ms Forbes said earlier: “This is a ticking timebomb that is driving young families away and undermining efforts to retain population.

“A big part of the problem is the number of second homes and holiday lets in the Highlands and Islands.

“I know that tourism is a key driver of economic growth in the Highlands – it creates jobs and sustains businesses. I want to support tourism.

"However, when almost 20 per cent of houses on Skye are on Airbnb, something needs to change.

“I know there will be lots of views on how to manage it – licensing is one suggestion. I’d encourage everybody to reply.”


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