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Today’s motion seeks to address what has been missing from the chamber over the past 15 months: a debate on housing addressing present and future challenges.
While Scotland experiences the biggest housing crisis since the end of world war two, the housing minister is absent and the Government is ducking its responsibilities on housing. Housing should be at the centre of Government policy, because it creates jobs and stimulates local economies. Scotland is on pause, as is evident from the Government’s housing portfolio.
In the past year, 13,478 houses have been built. That is the lowest number since 1947. Between 2008-09 and 2011-12, the capital housing budget was slashed by 29 per cent under the stewardship of the Scottish National Party. Since taking on the role of Minister for Housing and Welfare in September 2012, Margaret Burgess has failed to front a debate on housing. Paul Martin, Patrick Harvie and the Equal Opportunities Committee have been far more proactive than the housing minister in bringing serious debates to the chamber. The lack of leadership in the Government is impacting on local communities, local people and local economies as we speak. That lack of leadership and the entrenched lack of ambition have been criticised by Audit Scotland as well as by industry bodies. Phillip Hogg of Homes for Scotland said:
“Tackling this issue will require bold vision, commitment and action from all parties in order to halt the decline of what is a key national indicator.”
Scottish Labour is calling for a national housing action plan that is comprehensive, ambitious and inclusive in order to invest in our communities and reinvigorate housing in Scotland. I look forward to the minister’s response to that call.
Returning to the point about low ambition, I refer to the Scottish Government’s white paper on separation. In the section on housing in an independent Scotland, there is a total of seven paragraphs, or 10 if we feel generous enough to include those on fuel poverty and energy prices. There is also a very nice picture of a tenement building. That amounts to one and a half pages in a 670-page document—or 0.2 per cent—on housing.