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Housing

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th December 2013.

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Photo of Mike MacKenzie Mike MacKenzie Scottish National Party

I will not.

That is perhaps why Labour manifestly failed to deal with the housing problem when it was in power. Its technique then—as always—was to throw large amounts of money in the general direction of the problem in the hope that that would cure it.

The housing crisis has been growing across the whole UK since before the UK Government’s Barker report of 2004, which placed considerable emphasis on the need for the planning system to allocate more land for housing. The Scottish Government discussion document of 2007 “Firm Foundations: The Future of Housing in Scotland” also identified the problem and stated that the lack of a supply of suitable building land has led to unsustainably high land prices.

The Institute for Public Policy Research has, in a series of recent reports, identified the planning system as being one of the root causes of the longer-term failure of housing policy. It suggests—correctly, in my view—that uncertainty in the planning system leads to excessive land banking, which ties up valuable resources that could be much better used. In addition, the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s report on rural housing identified the planning system as being one of the major causes of failure in housing provision in rural areas. That is why I am glad that Derek Mackay, the planning minister, is taking steps to reform the planning system—although I accept that it will necessarily take time for the reforms to be implemented and for them to feed through into the system.

As we have heard from other members, the more immediate problem has been the credit crunch, which was ushered in by Labour in London because, when it was its job to regulate the banks, it failed to do so.