Housing

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 14 March 2024.

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Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to comments made by the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, which described Scotland as being “in the midst of a housing emergency”. (S6O-03205)

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

I spoke to CHIS at its conference last week on the day that it made that announcement. We recognise the housing challenges that are being experienced across the United Kingdom, and we are determined to address the current levels of homelessness, in part through the supply of affordable social housing.

However, the UK Government failed to inflation proof its capital budget, which has resulted in nearly a 10 per cent real-terms cut in our capital funding. The financial transactions budget has also been cut by 62 per cent. That is on top of Brexit and UK Government financial mismanagement that has caused inflationary pressures and supply and labour shortages in the construction industry.

As I have mentioned previously, we are working with the financial community in Scotland and elsewhere to boost private sector investment and deliver more homes.

Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

After 17 years in government, what a shameful response that is. In Scotland, 10,000 children are living in temporary accommodation and 130,000 households are waiting for social housing, and that response from the minister is the best that we get from the Government.

Shelter Scotland accused this Government—not any other Government—of “gaslighting” the people of Scotland on the housing emergency. Three councils have declared a housing emergency, and CHIS is the latest in a long line of organisations to declare such an emergency. Everyone knows that it is an emergency, except this Government.

Shelter has specifically called on the First Minister to make an urgent statement to the Parliament on Scotland’s housing emergency before the Easter recess. Will he do that? If he will not, why not?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

I cannot comment for the First Minister, but I will take up some of the member’s points. If he looks at the statement that Shelter released about the UK Government, he will see that it was as damning as the statement about the Scottish Government.

If we are going to quote independent analysis, we should look at the Crisis homelessness monitor—one of the key pieces of work to have come out in the past few months—which is based on independent research at Heriot-Watt University. One of the two things that it said have had the biggest impact on reducing homelessness is local housing allowance, which has been frozen by the UK Government for a number of years and for which there is a big demand. That presents a challenge for the Labour Party, too; once—or if—it comes to power in the UK, will it reinstate that? The second most important issue is universal credit rates. Again, those decisions have been made by the UK Government.

I go back to the point about the 10 per cent cut to our capital budget. As we are talking about decisions, our capital budget was cut by 10 per cent in order to pay for national insurance cuts for the most wealthy in society.

Photo of Gordon MacDonald Gordon MacDonald Scottish National Party

Will the minister confirm that, despite UK Government cuts to capital funding, Scotland’s affordable housing supply programme remains the most ambitious and successful such programme in the UK?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

Our affordable housing supply programme is, indeed, the most ambitious such programme in the UK. We remain focused on delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, despite the UK Government’s unprecedented cuts to our capital funding.

Since 2007, Scotland has led the way in housing, having delivered more than 40 per cent more affordable homes per head of population than England and 70 per cent more than Wales. From 23 March 2022 to the end of September 2023, 15,765 homes were delivered towards the affordable homes target of 110,00, and 12,188 of the homes that have been delivered are for social rent.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Does the minister accept that, in the period since the Government came to office in 2007, more social housing properties have been constructed each year, on average, than was the case for the eight years before the Government came to office?

All of us want more affordable housing developments to be undertaken. However, if the Scottish Government budget was not subjected to the callous cuts in capital expenditure that we have experienced from the Conservative Government perpetually and consistently, would that not help to enable the Scottish Government to fulfil its objectives and to address the legitimate concerns that have been raised by the housing sector?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

I concur with the member’s points. The Scottish Government has consistently delivered more homes per head of population than any other part of the United Kingdom. I mentioned the impact of the 10 per cent cut to our capital budget, and the 62 per cent cut to our financial transactions budget has made the situation extremely difficult for us. It comes back to the point about decision making, because the 10 per cent cut in our capital budget paid for national insurance cuts for the most wealthy in society.