ALMOST £700,000 of taxpayers’ cash has been given to homeowners to fix the thatched roofs of their private homes and holiday cottages.
Quango Historic Scotland has doled out £692,000 over the past 18 years to fix thatched roofs – even though some of them are privately-owned holiday homes for rent.
Many of the thatched properties are worth well in excess of £250,000 and critics of the hand-outs said it was not fair to fund the repairs from the public purse.
Historic Scotland pay between 50% and 85% of the cost of fixing or replacing a thatched roof if an applicant applies to them for cash.
Since 1998 they have spent £692,170 fixing up the roofs of hundreds of private homes in this way.
Figures of up to £10,000 have been given to private citizens to fix their roofs. But some have have claimed for as little as £43.
The owners of a four bedroom property in Yetholm, the Borders, acquired the house after it was put on the market for £245,000 in 2013.
A year later they received a grant of £3,060 to repair the roof of their family home, including an old barn which has been turned into a spacious extension.
A cottage in Collessie, Fife, was put on the market for £280,000 in 2011 – six years after taxpayers funded a £6,300 repair of their roof.
And between 1998 and 2002 £4,068 was spent fixing up a cottage property on the island of North Uist. It is now being rented as a holiday home for up to £588 a week.
A spokesman for Taxpayer Scotland said: “It simply is not fair to offer money privileges like this to owners who have taken a private decision to own a house with all the overheads that come with it.
“The forced inequalities implicit in using taxpayers’ money to subsidise these improvements far outweigh any intrinsic heritage benefits. Where does this end?
“It’s an arbitrary use of power over property by quango bureaucrats to fund their opinions undemocratically and arbitrarily.
“No doubt owners will cluster like bees around the honey pot of our money to, quite literally, line their own nest eggs at others’ expense.”
A Historic Scotland spokesman said: “Scotland has one of the widest range of traditional thatching types in Europe, but it is becoming increasingly rare, and many types of thatched buildings are at risk of being lost to development or neglect.
“Due to the perishable nature of thatching, this type of roof requires regular maintenance, so to encourage owners to undertake this work we provide grant support at a standard rate of 50% of the eligible costs.
“The average yearly total expenditure for the scheme has been less than £40k per year, which we believe represents excellent value.”
Responding to the fact that some of the houses are used as holiday lets, he added: “Some of these buildings are utilised as holiday homes, which provide a sustainable future for this traditional form of building.
“In many instances they provide accommodation for visitors in remote or rural parts of the country, which often brings wider benefit to the local economy.”