The most recent debate on housing in Scotland was in the Scottish Grand Committee. That debate was initiated by the Opposition. Although the Scottish Grand Committee is part of the House, it is not a Scottish Parliament established in Scotland to debate Scottish issues—and that must happen.
Although there has been little debate in Westminster on Scottish housing, there is a real debate in Scotland among those who are interested in housing. The basic demand that has arisen out of that debate is for increased investment in the housing stock. That demand now has widespread support across Scotland.
Shelter, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations are widely respected bodies with huge experience of Scottish housing. They are all knowledgeable about Scottish housing and call for a massive programme of additional investment to meet the housing crisis in Scotland.
Those organisations propose additional investment of about £580 million in each of the next five years. If that programme were realised, it would allow 13,000 affordable rented homes to be built in Scotland in each year. It would halve the numbers of houses below the tolerable standard in Scotland and restore repair and grant expenditure to the heady levels last experienced under Baroness Thatcher. Ministers cannot call those demands irresponsible. They have not been conjured up out of thin air, but are based on a detailed knowledge of housing needs in Scotland.
One such example is the demand for housing which has been generated by the increasing number of elderly people in Scotland. In 1992, the number of people over 75 represented about 6 per cent. of the Scottish population; by 2032, they will represent 11 per cent. of the Scottish population—in other words, the numbers will almost double in the next 35 years. If care in the community is to be honoured and if elderly Scots are to be given the opportunity to live independent lives, there will have to be a wider range of flexible housing options. That will require increased investment in the Scottish housing stock.