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This debate is about much more than bricks and mortar. It is about the right of every person in Scotland to a warm, secure, and affordable home. That basic human right must be at the heart of building a progressive, civilised and cohesive society. It is about giving children a safe environment in which to grow, allowing young people to have the best start in life by giving them access to employment and education or the chance to start a family, and providing our older people with a warm, comfortable, and safe place to live.
The importance of housing must therefore not be underestimated. It is central to meeting our economic objectives and to reducing our carbon footprint. It impacts on health outcomes and life expectancy. It is often critical to finding and holding down a job, and we know that it impacts on how well children perform at school.
If we are all agreed about the need for good-quality, affordable housing, we need to ensure that the policy and investment priorities of central and local government reflect that. Social housing should not be a safety net for those who cannot afford to buy or rent; it should be part of a necessary and desirable diversity of tenure within our neighbourhoods and communities.
I echo the points that other members have made about the Scottish Government’s record compared with those of previous Administrations and I will not labour that point. I also agree with the point that is made in the Government’s amendment that Scotland is outperforming other parts of the UK. However, serious challenges remain. I know that Alex Johnstone does not like to hear it, but the stark reality is swingeing cuts in capital budgets being imposed by Westminster, challenges facing the private housing construction sector that were brought about by the financial crash, and the reluctance and refusal of banks to release finance for social housing, which exacerbates the financial pressures on small housing associations. All that comes before we confront the pressures that are being brought to bear on registered social landlords as a result of welfare reform.
Despite the cuts in capital spending that have been imposed by Westminster, the Scottish Government has built 16,000 affordable homes. That is the answer to Mary Fee’s question when she asked when the building will start. It has started, and two thirds of those homes are for social rent. That is a good record that stands in stark contrast to that of the previous Administration.