MSPs to consider amendment for two-year rent freeze

Scottish Greens seeking to change emergency coronavirus legislation introduced in response to pandemic.

The Scottish Greens will seek to change emergency coronavirus legislation to introduce a two-year rent freeze.

Andy Wightman, the party’s housing spokesman, said the move would help “ensure the most vulnerable know that the roof over their head is secure”.

His call for a rent freeze is one of the amendments to the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill that will be considered by MSPs.

It is the second emergency Bill introduced by the Scottish Government to help with the response to the pandemic, with the legislation already setting out to give a cash boost to unpaid carers and improve the rights of those renting student accommodation.

As well as calling for a rent freeze, the Scottish Greens want the Bill to be altered to ban tenants from being evicted as a result of arrears built up because of the virus and to allow pharmacists to make the contraceptive pill freely available to women during the outbreak.

Speaking ahead of amendments being voted on by Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee, Mr Wightman said: “The Scottish Government has introduced protections for landlords so today I’m seeking to ensure that the rights of tenants are also catered for.

“I’m seeking to introduce a two-year rent freeze to protect those tenants who are already in financial crisis.

“I’ve also proposed banning rent arrears accrued during the crisis being used as the grounds for eviction after it is over.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are seeking to make changes that would permit cafes, restaurants and bars to use closed roads to enable social distancing between customers once they are allowed to reopen.

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Once it is safe and they are permitted to reopen, it seems inevitable that cafes, restaurants and bars will need to operate at a much reduced capacity to enable social distancing.

“Embracing a new street cafe culture with more covers outside could for many make the difference between their business being viable or not.

“Temporarily allowing these businesses to use nearby streets and other open-air spaces would help them lift the shutters when the time is right, protecting jobs and keeping people safe.”

The Lib Dems had already submitted amendments to the Bill to repeal freedom of information measures introduced in the Scottish Government’s first Covid-19 Bill.

The Scottish Conservatives have tabled amendments to ensure people can still get married during the outbreak, with social distancing in place.

“The fundamental right for a couple to get married is a human right, and not one that should be restricted,” Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said.

“There are plenty of places in Scotland where couples could safely get married, with the required three other people in attendance and a necessary social distance.”

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