Rural Development (Housing)

Environment and Rural Development – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7th December 2006.

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Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SG 2:15 pm, 7th December 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive what measures it is taking to promote rural development, for example by addressing issues in relation to poor housing. (S2O-11334)

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

The Executive takes a wide variety of measures to promote rural development and thriving rural communities. In 2006-07, we are investing £119 million in affordable housing, and private sector property owners in rural areas have benefited from £24 million of investment, in part to help tackle below-tolerable-standard housing. We expect all social landlords to achieve the Scottish housing quality standard across social housing by 2015.

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SG

Does the minister agree that urgent action is needed? In response to questions that I asked in November, Malcolm Chisholm said that 30,000 households in rural Scotland are living in damp houses, 78,000 households in rural Scotland are living in homes with a poor energy rating and 109,000 households in rural Scotland—25 per cent of rural households—are living in fuel poverty. Given the rising fuel costs and the standard of the houses in question, urgent action is needed. What is the minister going to do now?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

As I said in my previous answer, this year we have allocated £119 million for housing in rural areas, compared with last year's sum of £97 million. The Executive has responded in kind to the problems that the member has identified by increasing substantially the level of investment in this area.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Given the number of people who live in overcrowded houses or in caravans, will the minister give us an idea of the progress that is being made in creating forest crofts, which will allow more rural dwellers to remain in their communities?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

As the member will be aware, although the provisions in the Crofting Reform etc Bill will ensure that we can have forest crofts, the bill is not yet through Parliament. Once it is through—I expect to receive Rob Gibson's support in ensuring its swift passage—we will be able to discuss the timescale to which we will establish such crofts.