Scottish Government should bail out' housing market, says Scott
FIRST Minister Alex Salmond was today urged to take control of a crisis-hit housing market.
Tavish Scott, a leadership candidate for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said Mr Salmond must deal in "non-fiction" when he delivers a lecture on economic challenges at the Edinburgh International Book Festival tomorrow.
Pre-empting the speech, Shetland MSP Mr Scott said: "The crisis in the housing market is spreading like cancer. And all the evidence suggests that Scotland is now infected. Growth in the Scottish housing market has ground to a halt."
He warned that new houses in construction fell by 50% in the last quarter and claimed there had been 15,000 redundancies in the sector.
Mr Salmond is also due to announce new initiatives to help address the challenges facing the Scottish economy during the annual Donald Dewar lecture at the festival.
The Scottish Government insisted "decisive action" had already been taken and stood by its plans for 35,000 homes a year.
Mr Scott urged the First Minister to include three policies in his speech, including new resources for housing associations and councils to invest in unsold private homes and land.
Mr Scott also called for the UK and Scottish governments to work together with social landlords and to cut the bureaucracy of housing grants.
He added: "If the First Minister stops dithering and takes control, he can help a construction industry under massive strain, so that it can survive to build more private and affordable housing in the future.
"By doing so, he can also help address the chronic shortage of affordable and social housing in Scotland's communities.
"This is an important test for the First Minister. The time to act is now. Less spin and more action – that's what Scotland expects."
A spokeswoman for the government said 1.5 billion has been invested in housing over the next three years.
The spokeswoman added: "We recognise that developments in the credit-markets will have a significant adverse effect on house-building over the short to medium term.
"However, the underlying long term requirement for higher levels of housing remains.
"We are working to ensure that house-building is best placed to grow again once market conditions recover."
The calls came as Mr Salmond and his cabinet gathered in Pitlochry for the third of four meetings away from Holyrood this summer.
The visits have been organised to allow local communities an opportunity to speak to ministers about the issues important to them.
Local charities and voluntary organisations were invited to an evening event today before a public questions and answers session at the town hall tomorrow.
Mr Salmond will be in Edinburgh for the book festival speech tomorrow evening.
Meanwhile, communities minister Stewart Maxwell is due to meet representatives from the Homes for Scotland and the Scottish Federations of Housing Associations tomorrow.
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