Tenants' rights are key to thriving communities- Lorna Slater

Last week was a big week in the Scottish Parliament, and a historic week for tenants.

Lorna Slater, MSP, Scottish Greens co-leader, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity
Lorna Slater, MSP, Scottish Greens co-leader, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity

After three days of debate, MSPs voted overwhelmingly to deliver a rent freeze and new eviction protections for hundreds of thousands of tenants all over Scotland.

The Bill was tabled by Scotland’s Minister for Tenants Rights, my Green colleague Patrick Harvie, who became the first Green politician anywhere in the UK to pass a government Bill.

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The new emergency laws will last until at least March 31, with the possibility of an extension beyond that. It sets an example of swift and radical action that I hope is followed across the UK and beyond.

Although Patrick led on the Bill, he would be the first to say that it was a team effort. It was only possible because of the close collaboration with our Scottish Government colleagues, as well as with activists and organisations who are passionate about improving renting.

The scale and pace of change shows the difference that can be made by working constructively together.

There are few places where the impact will be felt more than Edinburgh.

Our city has far more privately-rented homes than most other parts of Scotland and the highest rents in the country. Since 2010 rents have risen by over 40 per cent, vastly outstripping inflation and wages.

As a Lothian MSP I am regularly contacted by people who have had their rent hiked up on top of skyrocketing bills and costs.

That is why, over the last two weeks, my in-box has been full of supportive emails from tenants who will benefit from the changes.

They can all see the sharp contrast between the action that we are taking in Scotland and the very different priorities in Downing Street, with their tax cuts for the richest and bankers bonuses.

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Good quality housing is not a privilege, it is a human right and should always be treated as such. Ours is one of the wealthiest societies in the world. Nobody should have to worry about whether they can keep a roof over their heads.

And it is not tenants who caused the economic chaos we are experiencing, and it is not them who should have to pay for it. People who rent their home are already more likely to live in poverty or be on low incomes. So I know that the steps we are taking will give them greater stability and peace of mind.

All tenants should enjoy secure, accessible, affordable and warm housing. Yet, far too many have found themselves trapped in a cycle of insecurity. It is those people whose voices must be prioritised, and which need to be at the heart of our debate.

Last week’s vote was just one part of the journey towards delivering the fairer and better deal that we want for people who rent. By the end of this parliamentary term, we will have delivered better rights for tenants to make a house a home, long term protection against eviction and a robust and national system of rent controls.

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Homes are more than just bricks and mortar. Secure, affordable and warm homes are the foundation of thriving communities and what people need to live fulfilling, happy lives. If, over the next six months and the next three years, we can take real steps to that end, then it is a legacy of which I would be very proud.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity