Emergency housing alert took a long time to announce - Susan Dalgety

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, Shona Robison MSPCabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, Shona Robison MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, Shona Robison MSP
So the Scottish Government has finally recognised that the country is facing a housing emergency. The change of heart comes only a few months after the finance secretary, Shona Robison, slashed the housing budget by £200 million, so forgive me if I am a tad cynical about the SNP government’s new-found interest in housing.

I am sure it had nothing to do with trying to undermine a Labour motion to the parliament that criticised the SNP’s approach to housing during the 17 years they have been in charge of the country’s public finances.

In 2007, there were nearly 26,000 new homes built – more than enough to meet demand. Last year, there were just under 19,200, yet the population has shot up by 375,000 people in recent years.

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Construction industry experts point to a “toxic relationship” between the government and the private rented sector and house builders for the housing crisis. The government blames Westminster, Brexit and inflation.

The truth, as always, will be somewhere in the middle, but whatever the root cause of our housing shortage, there is one simple answer: Scotland needs to build more homes.

And it needs to be a range of homes. Social housing so that households can have long term security at affordable rents. Private rented homes for those people who only want a short term tenancy. And homes that first time buyers and growing families can afford.

And any housing market where tourism makes a large contribution to the economy, as it does in Scotland, needs to take account of the demand for holiday lets.

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Solving the housing crisis is the basic stuff of policy development. We all know what the problem is – it is now up to the army of government ministers and their top civil servants to work out the best way to meet the challenge, working with the public and private sectors.

Of course, if housing had been a priority for the SNP government in recent years, instead of the constitution and independence, then the country and our city, which declared its own housing emergency last year, would not be in this mess. But let bygones be bygones.

There are 10,000 children classed as homeless in Scotland. If nothing else, that figure should shame the government into meaningful action.

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