The housing bill that is due over the coming months will be closely scrutinised and the true detail revealed. Although the First Minister promised to strengthen protection for tenants in the private rented sector, security of tenure must be a priority for the Government.
Yesterday we also heard the First Minister offer us a glimpse into statistics that clearly get him excited. Perhaps he could act on the statistics already offered to him and to his housing minister by Audit Scotland. Since coming into office in 2007, the First Minister and his Government have slashed the housing budget by more than half.
We also heard yesterday about the groundbreaking legislation brought in by Scottish Labour to tackle homelessness. The 2012 target set out to rehouse only those who became unintentionally homeless, but we need to move towards tackling the issues of so-called intentional homelessness. Let us be clear—no one aims to be intentionally homeless, but more has to be done. Without any fixed abode, what hope is there for anyone to access employment, improve their health and wellbeing and tackle the cause that leaves them homeless?
As a country, we are failing those individuals. As a Parliament, we need to have a cohesive and comprehensive strategy to help those individuals who are sleeping rough across Scotland.
Many this coming winter will face the choice between fuelling themselves and fuelling their homes. At least 28 per cent of all Scottish households are currently living in fuel poverty, and we need to go further and invest more to ensure that the Scottish Government’s target of abolishing fuel poverty “as far as practicable” by November 2016 can be achieved. That means further investment, as Energy Action Scotland called for in October 2011. It argued to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee that there needed to be greater investment to reach that target—a message that the Scottish Government has failed to heed.
Sandra White asked yesterday what Labour members were doing in their constituencies during the recess. I am happy to inform Mrs White and the rest of the members on the SNP benches that I was out across my area carrying out street surgeries—