Affordable Housing Supply Programme (Highlands and Islands)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th October 2022.

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Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

4. To ask the Scottish Government how it will overcome reported significant skills and supply chain shortages in the Highlands and Islands to deliver 11,000 rural and island homes by 2032. (S6O-01431)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is aware of the global issues that are affecting construction, which are impacting on affordable housing delivery. We are working closely with the construction industry and housing partners to mitigate those where possible and we operate a flexible grant system that can take account of increased costs.

More than 6,000 affordable homes were delivered in rural and island communities over the previous session of Parliament and we are making progress towards our next target. We are aware of the barriers that exist in those areas and we are developing a remote, rural and islands housing action plan to help to deal with them.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

Although the housing crisis in the Highlands and Islands is a significant challenge, the opportunities for job creation and investment are significant, too. What work has been done to identify the jobs and skills training programmes that are needed in the Highlands and Islands to tackle the crisis?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

With partners, we have identified the job creation and investment opportunities that Ariane Burgess mentioned. We know that there is a skills shortage, particularly in the construction industry. It is important that, along with Skills Development Scotland and other partners, we encourage young people into those trades and careers, which will have the benefit of keeping those young people living in rural communities. Therefore, the issue is not simply about the provision of housing, although affordable housing is key; it is also about the jobs and other opportunities that go with that.

I will be happy to keep Ariane Burgess updated on the progress that is being made.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

As well as skills shortages, another issue that is affecting the delivery of new housing in the islands is the unwillingness of energy supply companies to install meters in new-build properties. Might the cabinet secretary be minded to liaise with her cabinet secretary colleague Michael Matheson on making representations to the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets about how that market failure might be addressed, not least through the lifting of the ban on distribution network operators fitting meters while they install the supply in new properties in island communities?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Liam McArthur raises an important point. Of course, that issue affects the ability to get new builds ready for occupation not only in Orkney and the islands, but in other areas, which is very frustrating. I will be happy to speak to colleagues and to come back to Mr McArthur. It is important that we raise such matters as frequently as we can to ensure that progress is made so that the supply of affordable housing is not held up.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

According to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, among several severe unintended consequences of the Scottish National Party’s rent freeze proposals is a negative impact on

“the development of new homes, improvements to existing stock and the pursuit of net zero targets.”

Reduced development of rented homes in the social and private sectors will inevitably reduce availability when supply is already stretched.

What analysis has the Scottish Government done on the impacts of the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill on housing availability in rural and island areas?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

We have a good track record of delivering affordable housing, whether in urban Scotland or in rural and island communities. The most recent figures, which came out on Tuesday, show that we have delivered nearly 113,000 affordable homes since 2007, more than 79,000 of which were for social rent. That means that 62 per cent more affordable homes have been delivered in Scotland per head of population than in England. The context for our affordable housing supply programme is important.

Over the past two days, we have debated the detail of the emergency measures that we are taking to support tenants and avoid them losing their homes and not being able to afford their rents. We have spoken to the SFHA in detail about working in partnership on an agreement that can be put in place that will ensure that investment in social housing, whether in rural Scotland or urban Scotland, continues to be made.

The point has been made not just by the SFHA but by the Scottish Association of Landlords that the key problem for landlords at the moment is interest rates, which are putting their costs up. Perhaps the member should pay more attention to that. [



It is well seen what side the Tory party is on when it comes to supporting tenants. Perhaps that is why they are where they are in the polls that have been published this week.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The next question comes from Colin Beattie, who is joining us remotely.