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

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Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

If the member wants to talk about housing, I point out that Scottish Labour would not have wasted £30 million on the Glasgow airport rail link project, which has hardly demonstrated a fiscally responsible Government.

We are calling for a national action plan on housing, and it must be comprehensive and ambitious. As regards ambition, the white paper was very light on housing matters and gave us no answers as to what the Government’s priorities will be. It does nothing to alleviate the concerns of Scottish house builders, which were raised in the recent Jones Lang LaSalle survey that showed that most house builders believe that Scottish independence would result in fewer housing developments. In fact, only one in 12 house builders thought that independence would deliver more housing.

If we couple that survey with the warning in the report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that Scotland may have to make further spending cuts, the prospect of independence does not paint a great picture of the future of housing in Scotland, especially when we already know about the potential supply and demand challenges that we face over the next 50 years.

Across the chamber, there is agreement that we need more housing of all shapes and sizes. No one would disagree with the idea that well-built, affordable housing can have a positive impact on health, wellbeing, employment and education. However, there is disagreement on how we can achieve the housing targets. In its manifesto for the 2011 election, the SNP promised to build 6,000 social rented homes each year, but that has been edited to a promise to build 6,000 affordable homes a year.

A year before the minister took on her role, Shelter Scotland and the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland warned the Government that unless there was a radical rethink on spending priorities, it would not meet the target that it had pledged to meet on affordable homes. That might partly explain why we now find ourselves experiencing the biggest crisis in Scottish housing since the end of world war two.

To return to the Audit Scotland report, we learn that it could be 20 years before enough new homes are built to meet the changing demographics and projected population increase. That there is a crisis in housing is reflected by Audit Scotland’s reporting of the fact that the number of new homes built by the private sector has more than halved, and that councils and registered social landlords have built 14,000 fewer homes than needed since 2005.