Section 12A — Short Scottish secure tenancies

Part of Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:30 am on 17th June 2004.

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Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour 10:30 am, 17th June 2004

I fear that members who have spoken in the debate—and even Barnardo's—do not understand that point that we are debating. Members will be aware—if they are not, they should be—that, under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, which roused great interest when it was debated in the Parliament, power was given to local authorities and housing associations to convert tenancies to SSSTs. That power can be applied across the board, even if there is a baby in the house. The measure was provided not as a way of penalising those families who have young people in the house or as a way of getting at the young person, but as a way of inserting an extra measure before a local authority or a registered social landlord moved to eviction. It was intended to be a way of putting in place a package of measures to ensure that the behaviour that was causing offence to the neighbours and the community could be tackled.

Members such as Elaine Smith have asked why those measures cannot be put in place before the situation has got to that stage. Local authorities and housing associations try to engage with the tenant to get them to take up the package of measures that, as elected representatives, we know are available. However, some people simply do not want to do that and they must be sent a message that they are being given a final opportunity. They need to be told that they have a year in which to sit down and engage with the local authority or the housing association and accept the help that is available.

I understand the sentiment that lay behind the amendment that Elaine Smith moved at stage 2 and I accept that her arguments about the differences between the owner-occupied sector and the rented sector are compelling. However, we must accept that those differences exist and that we will not be able to change that situation with this bill. I have been trying to ensure that the rights of residents in the private and the public sector are maintained and improved. I am proud of the work that the Scottish Parliament has undertaken on behalf of tenants in the social rented sector.

I believe that Elaine Smith, some other members of the Communities Committee and some of the lobbying groups have got it wrong. If we follow their suggestions, we could end up with a situation in which a family with a 10-year-old child who live in a house in which there is a problem with antisocial behaviour could have their tenancy converted to an SSST, but families with children between the ages of 12 and 15 would not have the opportunity to access a support package that could provide them with a final protection against eviction.

Before members vote on this issue, they should ensure that they understand the full details. Elaine Smith said that, if we support the Executive's amendment, people in the social rented sector will be treated more harshly. Far from that, if we do not support the Executive's amendment, those who have young folk between the ages of 12 and 15 in their families will be denied a vital tool for correcting their behaviour.

In my local authority area, and in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, I understand that several tenancies have been converted to short Scottish secure tenancies since the introduction of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. My information is that, as of last week, none of those SSSTs had resulted in the person being evicted; in fact, they had converted back to secure tenancies.