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Affordable Housing (North-east Fife)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:26 pm on 2nd June 2004.

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Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party 5:26 pm, 2nd June 2004

I have my other glasses on, but the last time that I looked I was not Richard Lochhead.

I congratulate Iain Smith on securing tonight's debate. I know that it is customary in such debates to thank and congratulate the member who has secured them, but on this occasion my congratulations are genuine. This is a very important debate and I have never heard Iain Smith speak better in the chamber.

Although we are right to focus on north-east Fife, we must recognise that a shortage of affordable housing is a problem in rural areas throughout Scotland. Average house prices have risen—as Iain Smith said, prices in Cupar have risen by more than 50 per cent in the past year alone. It is not the case that St Andrews, in particular, is becoming unaffordable; housing is unaffordable in many areas of north-east Fife. If house prices in Scotland had increased only by the rate of inflation since 1975, the average price would be £48,000 lower than it is.

Throughout Fife, house prices are rising at an unprecedented rate, partly as a result of the fact that prices are so high in Edinburgh. Because people on modest incomes are unable to buy in Edinburgh the kind of houses that they want, we are seeing a ripple effect throughout Fife. As Iain Smith rightly said, that extends all the way up to Cupar. The parts of Fife that have access to a mainline railway station are the areas in which house prices are rising. Perhaps we should consider the dispersal of jobs from the likes of Edinburgh to places such as Fife and taking jobs to where people are, because at the moment those people are commuting to Edinburgh for jobs.

People are moving into Fife and into West Lothian, where house prices are much lower. To the mix of reasons for the rise in house prices, we must add the fact that the number of council houses is decreasing, because houses have been bought under the right to buy and not replaced. I say to Ted Brocklebank that it is clear that, after all these years, the Tories have learned nothing about housing and the housing market. It is not good enough to suggest that people can go away and come back.