Increasing Scotland’s housing budget will be the “number one priority” if new funding becomes available, the deputy first minister has said.
In last month’s Budget, housing saw a cut of more than £200m, drawing criticism due to well-publicised shortages and housing emergencies being declared in three council areas – including Scotland’s two biggest cities.
Appearing before the Finance and Public Administration Committee at Holyrood on Tuesday, Shona Robison – who also serves as the country’s Finance Secretary – blamed a reduction in capital funding in the Budget.
But she assured MSPs that an increase in capital funding as a result of the UK Government’s spring budget will benefit housing in Scotland.
“These decisions are not easy, it would be fair to say this is one of the most difficult decisions,” she said.
“I would also say that if the capital availability of funding changes, it would certainly be the key priority for additional capital availability should that position change over the coming weeks and months.”
She later said it would be the “number one priority” if extra cash became available.
The Scottish Government has set a target of building 110,000 new affordable homes by 2032.
Addressing the target, Ms Robison told MSPs: “It’s fair to say that the profiling of the target will need to change.
“It’s never a straight road on a target, there are always bumps or peaks and troughs of delivery, and it’s fair to say that I think we’d be looking at back end peaks while we have a very difficult outlook at the moment with capital.
“That might change, but at the moment that’s the outlook in terms of our capital budget reduction.
“We have to look at alternatives, we can’t rely on public capital.”
The Deputy First Minister also reiterated that the Scottish Government will attempt to “lever in” private sector investment into the housing sector to boost building projects.
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