Labour fails in bid to declare housing emergency across Scotland

The party’s Mark Griffin said it is ‘beyond belief’ that the Scottish Government ‘cannot accept’ there is an emergency.

Labour fails in bid to declare housing emergency across Scotland Getty Images

An attempt by Scottish Labour to declare a housing emergency in Scotland has failed.

The party sought to follow Argyll and Bute and Edinburgh city councils with the declaration, but their motion fell at Holyrood by 63 votes to 51.

Statistics released in August found 32,242 households were assessed as homeless in 2022-23 – an increase of 10% in just one year.

A total of 15,039 households were living in temporary accommodation – including 9,595 children – as of March 31 of this year – an increase of 6% compared to the previous year.

Speaking in the debate on Wednesday, Labour housing spokesman Mark Griffin said: “What I want to talk about here is this Government’s responsibility, this Government’s action – or actually inaction – which has led to the housing emergency that it seems the entire country accepts we’re in the grip of apart from this Government.”

Mr Griffin and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar earlier met with staff from the charity Shelter Scotland and heard stories of someone sleeping in an out-of-use caravan and a woman with three children who was “moved from hotel to hotel”, with no changes made to rooms despite one of her children using a wheelchair.

Mr Griffin told MSPs: “Most shockingly, we heard of a woman who has been in temporary accommodation for 10 years.

“What was worse, that woman has a six-year-old child – that six-year-old child has spent their entire life in temporary accommodation, that six-year-old has no concept of what a safe, secure place to call home is.”

The stories he heard, Mr Griffin said, were an “appalling indictment”, and he said it is “beyond belief” that the Scottish Government “cannot accept” there is a housing emergency.

Responding to the motion for the Scottish Government, housing minister Paul McLennan said housing and homelessness services are “under great strain”, and he sought to highlight the “disastrous decisions” of successive UK governments.

He added: “Many of the challenges facing Scotland’s housing market today are borne of disastrous decisions.

“The freezing of local housing allowance, a hard Brexit and a catastrophic mini-budget last year.

“We know there is unmet housing need – people deserve better.

“We will continue to work in partnership with local authorities, with landlords and with housing developers to ensure we have the right range and choice of homes to allow our communities to thrive.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Graham Simpson tabled an amendment from his party – which also fell – that would have urged the Government to address a housing emergency in its upcoming Housing Bill.

“We’ve seen little by way of detail so far about the Bill, but it must tackle the issue I’ve raised and it must do something to address the chronic under-supply,” he said.

“Denying the problem won’t fix the problem – is there a housing emergency? You bet there’s a housing emergency.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie accepted the impact of UK Government policy on housing in Scotland, adding it is not “all the SNP’s fault”.

He added: “But it doesn’t negate the fact that we have an emergency and we should acknowledge that rather than complacently going on thinking our plans are going to be enough.”

Responding to Mr Rennie, Mr McLennan said “whatever we decide to call it”, the actions taken are more important.

The most recent available statistics show the number of homes which started construction in 2022-23 was 18,990, up from 13,520 in 2012-13, while the number of completions rose from 14,099 to 23,768 in the same period.

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