Scottish government expected to declare national housing emergency

The Scottish government is expected to declare a housing emergency in a debate at Holyrood later on Wednesday.

Scottish Labour has tabled a motion for a second time in an attempt to force the government to acknowledge the extent of the crisis across the country.

Five local authorities – Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire – have already made such a declaration in the face of increasing homelessness figures and a lack of supply.

Scottish Labour’s first bid in November failed.

But now that the SNP’s power-sharing Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens has come to an end, John Swinney could have faced losing his first vote since taking over as first minister if he chose to oppose Labour’s motion.

In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland earlier on Wednesday, Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville claimed the reason behind the planned declaration is Mr Swinney’s desire to be frank with the Scottish parliament and members of the public about the issues facing the country.

By declaring an emergency, the Scottish government would formally be recognising the housing problem.

Ms Somerville is expected to blame UK government austerity and Brexit for the decision.

Read more:
‘Housing emergency’ in Glasgow

In response, the Scottish Conservatives said the SNP “have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into this long overdue acceptance of reality”.

Miles Briggs MSP, the shadow housing secretary for the Tories in Scotland, added: “Shirley-Anne Somerville has typically tried to blame Westminster but the SNP have received a record block grant and it is them who shamefully slashed £200m from the affordable housing budget.

“They – along with Labour – also backed the Greens’ illogical rent freeze policy which has instead hit tenants with soaring rents and has put the pause on much needed housing developments.”

Mr Briggs claimed a “record number” of children are having to live in temporary accommodation and homelessness figures are at “disgraceful levels”.

He added: “Finally declaring a housing emergency must be more than lip service from the SNP.

“We must see ministers now reverse their deeply damaging cuts and take the urgent action required – including bringing thousands of empty properties back into use – to tackle Scotland’s housing crisis.”

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