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

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Photo of Jim Eadie Jim Eadie Scottish National Party

All the detail on that is actually in the white paper. The member is betraying the fact that he has not read it.

The point that I was making was simply a statement of fact: that the blame for the financial crisis lies at the door of Westminster.

I want to talk about the serious issue of lending to the social housing sector, which is an important issue that the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations highlighted in advance of the debate. The federation rightly recognises the lack of flexibility in the UK Government lending initiatives to boost the amount of finance that is available to housing associations. It has stated that UK Government schemes are

“not appropriate for most Scottish housing association projects and will have minimal impact in delivering new housing in Scotland”.

That is because the UK Treasury rules require a minimum of £5 million in tranches that are released through those schemes, and that does not reflect the reality of the size and scale of the social housing sector in Scotland. We need greater flexibility.

Despite those challenges, registered social landlords are in good financial health, with £11 billion of housing assets protected. There is some good news. RSLs are recording deficits that have fallen to a five-year low. However, social landlords are facing financial pressure through welfare reform increasing the financial risks to housing associations. Again, the SFHA has been helpful in its independent analysis in demonstrating what that will mean. It will mean that there will be a loss of benefit income for working-age tenants in the sector of up to £228 million by 2017, which increases the financial risks for housing associations.

In evidence to the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee only this morning, the Scottish Housing Regulator confirmed that it was concerned about benefits being paid directly to the tenant rather than, as is the case at the moment, to the landlord, which, of course, provides a regular and assured income stream. That will have a knock-on effect on lending to housing associations and is something else that we should be mindful of.

The Government has done everything that it is legally permitted to do to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax. I welcome that.