Tories hit out at cost of flat for Humza Yousaf while Bute House being repaired

Taxpayers had to foot £6,000 per month bill
The total bill for repair work and temporary accommodation for the First Minister was £856,307.The total bill for repair work and temporary accommodation for the First Minister was £856,307.
The total bill for repair work and temporary accommodation for the First Minister was £856,307.

Tories have hit out at a £6,000 per month bill met by taxpayers to provide First Minister Humza Yousaf with alternative accommodation while his official residence was being repaired.

Mr Yousaf had to move out of Bute House in Charlotte Square from April to September while essential external and internal work was carried out on the A-listed building. The work included stonework and roof repairs advised by specialist surveyors, windows being refurbished and essential fire safety measures. 

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The Scottish Government arranged to rent a three-bedroom flat in central Edinburgh for the First Minister to use for the five months he was away from Bute House. Now it has revealed the total cost of the repair work and temporary accommodation was £856,307.59. 

Costs for the flat amounted to £29,546.67, including fees of £5,400 for property search and advice, £2,035.20 in legal fees, £19,813.70 rent, £1,877.77 council tax and £420.00 end-of-tenancy fees.

Lothian MSP and Tory shadow housing secretary Miles Briggs said: “Humza Yousaf was lucky to find somewhere to rent, given the housing emergency declared by Edinburgh City Council – which the SNP’s disastrous rent cap has helped cause.

 “But at £6,000 per month, it certainly didn’t come cheap to the taxpayer. At a time when his government is slashing budgets – including on housing – and hiking taxes to fill the black hole the SNP’s financial mismanagement has created, this will stick in the craw of hard-pressed Scots.

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“Scotland is facing a housing crisis and thousands have been left languishing in temporary accommodation. How many more councils will have to declare a housing emergency for Humza Yousaf and his party to take the issue seriously?”

Bute House is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and the the Scottish Government pays an annual lease of £80,000 plus VAT, but the government is liable for all costs of repairs and maintenance. Routine surveys identified essential work which needed to be carried out.

Fire protection work cost £201,148; stonework and roof repairs, window refurbshment, work on cast-iron pipes and associated work came to £595,247; and removal and storage of artworks and special protection for chandeliers cost £30,365.

Mr Briggs said: “While it is important that Bute House is properly maintained, the near £1 million bill is very large, so I trust ever effort was made to keep limit these costs to a minimum.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is responsible for all repairs and maintenance of the A-listed building as a condition of the lease agreement with the National Trust for Scotland. Active maintenance helps to minimise the financial impact of meeting legal responsibilities at the end of a lease.   

 “The full closure of Bute House meant the programme of necessary repair work could be carried out in the most cost-effective way possible.

 “The Scottish Government has led the UK in housing by delivering approx.130,000 affordable homes since 2007, over 89,000 of which were for social rent, including almost 24,000 council homes. We will invest £556 million in affordable housing this year to increase the delivery of more affordable homes, the majority of which will be for social rent, including supporting acquisitions of existing properties.”

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