The extent of empty homes and how these can be brought back into use is to be investigated by Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee.

National Records of Scotland data from 2017 has shown that 4% of the dwellings in Scotland are unoccupied and the Committee’s inquiry will investigate why.

The new inquiry will examine the scale of the issue, the effectiveness of current legislation and what more can be done to prevent properties remaining empty for extended periods of time.

Convener of the Local Government and Communities Committee, James Dornan MSP, said: “There are a number of reasons why a property can be empty, but empty homes can have a huge impact on communities and reduce available housing supply at a time when housing is in great demand.

“The Committee will explore the extent of the problem and the impact this can have in both urban and rural communities across Scotland.

“We want to ensure local authorities have appropriate powers to tackle this issue and that everything possible is being done to encourage owners to put these empty homes back into use. To do this we want to hear from local authorities, housing experts and those who have been impacted by empty homes in their communities.”

The Committee is calling for evidence on its webpage: Parliament.scot/empty-homes-inquiry

The call for written views will close on 17 May 2019.

In April last year councillors on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar heard that official figures showed there were 522 long-term empty properties in private ownership on the Outer Hebrides and that 231 of these have been vacant for 12 months or more. It equates to 3.5% of local housing stock. Some areas are more affected than others. In Stornoway 4% of homes are lying empty but that rises to 8% of homes being long-term empty in the more rural areas.

Councillor Kenny John Macleod, who chairs the Communities and Housing Committee, said: "Bringing empty properties back into use can be of much benefit for communities and contribute to Comhairle and Community Planning aspirations in terms of population retention and economic development."