Protesters call for rent controls outside First Minister’s residence

Rent controls were introduced in Scotland in 1915 and abolished in 1988.

Protesters call for rent controls outside First Minister’s residence PA Media

Protesters gathered outside Bute House to demand rent controls after statistics showed costs in Glasgow rose by nearly 100% in the past decade.

First Minister John Swinney was urged to introduce rent controls in the same week the Scottish Government declared a housing emergency by campaign group Living Rent which rallied outside Bute House, his official residence in Edinburgh.

Similar demonstrations took place in Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Rent controls were abolished by Margaret Thatcher in 1988 across the UK, but the last decade saw rents increase by 62% across Scotland, rising by 88.5% in Edinburgh and 95.5% in Glasgow, where campaigners rallied in Govan beside statue of Mary Barbour, who fought for the policy to be introduced in 1915.

The rallies coincide with Parliament’s consultation on the Housing Bill, a key component of the Scottish Government’s plan to address the housing crisis after it declared the country was facing a housing emergency, following similar declarations by local authorities in Edinburgh, Argyll and Bute, Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and Fife.

Living Rent called on the First Minister to continue pushing for “effective and thorough” rent controls as part of the Bill and warned that tenants have been “pushed to the edge by the end of the rent cap”.

Declaring a housing emergency is intended to recognise the pressures facing residents, an increase in homelessness applications, and a lack of adequate resources to process them, amid warnings from the Scottish Homelessness Monitor that homelessness could rise by a third (33%) in 2024.

Data from the Scottish Government published in November revealed that between 2010 and 2023, rents increased on average 51.6% or even more steeply – including 79.3% in Lothian, and 86.2% in Greater Glasgow, while inflation was 45.7% during the same period.

However in the last year, rents have increased by 14.3% to an average of £841 per month, and in Greater Glasgow, rents rose by 22.3% to average £1050 per month, while in Lothian, rents rose by 18.4% to average £1192 – among the highest year-on-year growth in the UK.

Protesters outside Bute House calling for rent controls (Living Rent/PA Wire). PA Media

Low earners pay over half of their monthly wages on rent with most other wage brackets paying approximately a third – meaning that a third (29%) of people are struggling and an estimated one in 10 (11%) of households in poverty were experiencing “very low” food security – meaning that meals were skipped, or food intake reduced because of costs.

Living Rent national campaign’s officer Ruth Gilbert said: “Tenants have been pushed to the edge by the end of the rent cap and eviction ban. The rent cap provided a temporary bandage over a growing crisis, but it has not addressed the fundamental issue that rents are out of control.

“Rents in Scotland have continued to rise in line with the rest of the UK because the temporary measures did not go far enough, and did not apply between tenancies.

“Tenants desperately need this government to introduce a robust system of rent controls tied to the property, not the tenancy, which protects all tenants. The new Housing Bill is a key opportunity for proper rent controls and our presence today demonstrates the importance of it.

“The Scottish Government urgently needs to reverse its cuts to affordable housing, and commit to strong, permanent rent controls. Without this, tenants will continue to be forced to put up with unaffordable housing.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There is no one solution to addressing rent affordability and our commitment to introducing a longer-term system of rent controls for Scotland is one measure being taken forward in the Housing Bill.

“While our emergency legislation, including the rent cap, came to an end on March 31 2024, our temporary changes to the way rents are decided if a tenant seeks a review are helping to protect people from very steep in-tenancy rises.

“Tenants’ rights in Scotland continue to be strongest in the UK and we are working hard to raise awareness of these rights.”

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