More than 200 people died while homeless in Scotland in 2019, according to new figures.
Experimental statistics published by National Records of Scotland (NRS) estimate that 216 people died that year, an increase of 11% on the estimate of 195 in 2018.
The average age at death in 2019 was 43 for men and 39 for women and more than half of homeless deaths (54%) were drug-related.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of deaths among people experiencing homelessness were male (157) and 27% were female (59).
Scotland had the highest homeless death rate when compared to England and Wales in 2019 with a rate of 52.2 per million population aged 15-74 compared to 18 in England and 14.3 in Wales.
Julie Ramsay, NRS head of vital events, said: “Given the importance of having information on the number of homeless deaths in Scotland, we worked with Office for National Statistics (ONS) to develop this methodology to provide estimates.
“While these statistics help our understanding of this issue, it’s important to understand these figures are currently experimental and the methodology is under development.
“These estimates do provide context and show that homeless deaths have increased for the second consecutive year, with an 11% increase on the estimate in 2018.”
In 2019 the local authorities with the highest homeless death rates per million population aged 15-74 were Inverclyde (213.2), South Ayrshire (120.3) and North Ayrshire (111.8).
NRS said the Western Isles also had a high rate (191.4) but that as this was based on a small number of identified deaths the result should be treated with caution.
The figures include people in temporary accommodation and rough sleepers.
NRS said that as the statistics are experimental they are in the testing phase and not yet fully developed and will remain experimental statistics for a period of evaluation of their suitability and quality.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said that ending homelessness is a priority for the Scottish Government.
He said: “Each one of these deaths is a tragedy, representing some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“While this report is based on experimental statistics, its findings will help the Scottish Government to further understand the many issues affecting the most vulnerable in our society as we redouble our efforts to eradicate homelessness.
“Ending homelessness once and for all is a priority for the Scottish Government.
“We have some of the strongest rights in the world for people experiencing homelessness and everyone who is threatened with homelessness is entitled to help from their local authority to secure a stable home.
“While there are now only a dozen or so people sleeping rough, we must ensure everyone experiencing any form of homelessness is fully supported to overcome the trauma of finding themselves without a home and helped into settled accommodation.”
The Scottish Conservatives said the party had a plan to end homelessness by 2026.
Shadow housing secretary Alexander Stewart said: “The SNP minister says that every one of these deaths is a tragedy, yet his government has had 14 years to act.
“Instead of using fully devolved powers to improve Scotland, the SNP obsess over divisive constitutional politics and dishonestly blame Westminster to distract from its growing failures.
“SNP spin won’t save a single life of those who sleep on our streets. The time for action is now and that is why the Scottish Conservatives have pledged to end the national blight of rough sleeping by the end of the following parliament.”
Stewart said the Scottish Government was investing £32.5m of its £50m Ending Homelessness Together fund to help local authorities prioritise settled accommodation for all, while its Winter Plan for Social Protection fund, announced in November last year, added another £5m to accelerate this work.
He added: “The First Minister has declared a national mission to cut the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland, with additional funding of £250m over the next session of the parliament, and £5m made available immediately to ensure priority work gets underway as quickly as possible.”