Homelessness etc (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:03 pm on 5th March 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 4:03 pm, 5th March 2003

On behalf of the Scottish National Party group, I thank the clerking staff, the convener of the Social Justice Committee and all those who gave evidence to help to produce this important piece of legislation. Although we are disappointed that amendments 6 and 16 were agreed to, we genuinely welcome the bill.

The bill covers important issues, including homelessness tests, priority need, anti-social behaviour, local connection and the support that homeless and vulnerable people will be able to obtain. All those issues were thoroughly discussed and debated in committee. The paucity of amendments reflects the genuine consensus among all parties on homelessness.

The number of homelessness applications has been at a record level. The key to delivery for Scotland's homeless people and those who might become homeless is resources, by which I mean money, adequately trained and deployed staff and new homes being built the length and breadth of the country. I know that those issues are exercising the private sector and the Executive.

The committee discussed hidden homelessness. There are concerns that there might be an upsurge in the number of homelessness applications as people benefit from the legislation. However, that is obviously a suck-it-and-see issue for the Executive. There are also concerns that the level of resources that will be required has not yet been assessed. We look forward to that happening.

The minister touched on housing stock transfer, which I did not think was part of the issue that we are discussing. However, I am happy to mention it. Now that stock transfer has been approved, I hope that there will be genuine community ownership. I hope that we do not see a situation in which big, national housing associations effectively take over what should be community-run housing associations. Those community-run associations genuinely deliver to people—small is beautiful, as my colleague Linda Fabiani has said. The SNP certainly wants secondary transfers at the earliest feasible opportunity.

The minister is right in saying that we cannot rush into implementing legislation. However, in our view, there have been delays in implementing some important aspects of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, as I mentioned in our discussions on the amendments. Although we do not want legislation, guidelines or implementation to be rushed, we do not want procrastination either. It is important to introduce the measures as soon as possible.

Despite the minister's comments about the Executive's work in tackling housing issues and homelessness, we should remember that in the dark days of Mrs Thatcher housing investment was three times what it is in Scotland today. However, it will help that the Executive has accepted a number of SNP policies, such as the abolition of the 75 per cent clawback rule and the introduction of prudential borrowing and a Scottish housing standard.

In conclusion, I believe that the bill is excellent. We must all ensure that it works for the most vulnerable in our society.