Homelessness Scotland: Open cases hit highest level on record as Scottish Government accused of 'failing' amid 'deeply worrying' housing budget cuts

Shelter Scotland has issued a ‘gaslighting’ warning as it was revealed the number of open homelessness cases in Scotland is at the highest level on record

The number of open homelessness cases in Scotland is at the highest level on record, figures have revealed, as the Scottish Government was accused of “failing” to deal with housing shortages.

Government statistics released on Tuesday reveal 30,724 live applications were recorded on September 30 of last year – an increase from the previous high of 30,129 in June last year. Compared with the same period the previous year, the number of unresolved applications had increased by 10 per cent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On September 30, 9,860 children were in temporary accommodation in Scotland – a slight fall from June 30, but an 8 per cent increase compared to the same time the previous year.

Edinburgh is among locations in the grip of a housing emergency, as the number of open cases of homelessness in Scotland hits record levels. Picture: Getty ImagesEdinburgh is among locations in the grip of a housing emergency, as the number of open cases of homelessness in Scotland hits record levels. Picture: Getty Images
Edinburgh is among locations in the grip of a housing emergency, as the number of open cases of homelessness in Scotland hits record levels. Picture: Getty Images

The number of people who applied for homelessness assistance between April and September last year having slept rough the night before was also the highest since at least 2020, at 888 – an increase of 23 per cent from the same period the previous year.

Applications from people who reported having slept rough in the past three months was 1,408 – a 20 per cent increase from the previous year.

MSPs have the final vote on the Scottish Government’s Budget on Tuesday, just hours after the publication of the figures, with housing funding facing a near-£200m cut.

Shelter Scotland Director Alison Watson said: “The Scottish Government’s strategies for housing and homelessness are failing and any attempt to say otherwise is starting to feel like an attempt to gaslight the Scottish public.

“The Scottish Government can’t claim to be determined to fight poverty while presiding over record homelessness, repeatedly deprioritising housing in its spending choices, and ploughing ahead with a strategy which today’s figures once again clearly show isn’t working.

“Local authorities are breaking the law on an industrial scale every day and yet there’s no new plans, no new money, and no new leadership to meet the scale of the emergency.”

Ms Watson added: “The ongoing housing emergency in Scotland was not inevitable, it is a result of poor political choices and serious mismanagement across every tier of government. Anyone who backed that budget can’t expect to be taken seriously in the future when they claim they’re fighting homelessness.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Matt Downie, chief executive of the charity Crisis, said it was “deeply worrying” to see a rise in rough sleeping, and he urged the Scottish Government to take action through its coming housing Bill.

Of the 10,247 people who applied for homelessness assistance, 26 per cent said they had been asked to leave their accommodation, while 19 per cent claimed there was a dispute in their household.

In the three months to September 30, the number of households not offered temporary accommodation was the highest on record (1,515). The figure was driven by Glasgow, which accounted for 1,355 such instances, followed by Edinburgh with 125.

A report from the Scottish Government said the figures were caused by Glasgow City Council’s decision to move away from the use of bed and breakfasts for temporary accommodation.

The report said: “This large increase is attributed to Glasgow, who had 1,355 instances of not being able to offer temporary accommodation between July and September, compared to less than five in all previous quarters back to October to December 2020. Glasgow has noted this increase is due to the council reducing its use of bed and breakfast accommodation.”

Glasgow City Council has been contacted for comment.

Housing minister Paul McLennan described the figures as “sobering”, adding they “demonstrate the challenge we face in tackling homelessness, which has been made worse by the UK Government’s Local Housing Allowance freeze, cuts to the Scottish Government’s budget and the bedroom tax”.

He said: “Despite this, Scotland continues to have the strongest rights anywhere in the UK for anyone who becomes homeless, but we are determined to ensure no-one need become homeless in the first place and ensure people can stay in their homes. I regularly engage with Scotland’s local authorities and work with them to find solutions to the housing pressures they are facing.

“The Scottish Government is doing all it can by making record funding available to councils of more than £14 billion in 2024/25 – a real-terms increase of 4.3 per cent compared with the previous year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“This includes £30.5 million to local authorities to support their work to prevent homelessness, plus £90.5m to spend on discretionary housing payments. We are also investing £100m in the multi-year ending homelessness together fund.”

Of the total number of households made homeless between April and September last year, 13 per cent had been previously in a private rented property, compare to 19 per cent the previous year. This was due to, Mr McLennan claims, the Scottish Government’s emergency eviction ban.

“The figures show the introduction of emergency legislation to protect tenants during the cost-of-living crisis has likely reduced the number of private renters from becoming homeless,” he said.

“When the emergency legislation comes to an end from March 31, we have outlined proposals to continue to give tenants stronger rights than anywhere else in the UK.”

The figures come as the Government has been under pressure to declare a housing emergency, following the example of three local authorities – Edinburgh, Glasgow and Argyll and Bute.

The minister said the Government was “working closely” with councils to increase housing supply through the purchase of “high quality, affordable, permanent homes”.

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Miles Briggs said the cut would “only make this grim situation even worse”, adding: “Those ministers must urgently rethink those cuts, finally declare a national housing emergency and get a grip of this deepening crisis.

“It is clear that SNP-Green ministers have lost control of the housing emergency and are simply burying their heads in the sand.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Labour housing spokesman Mark Griffin said the cut to the housing budget was “shameful”, adding: “The most vulnerable in our society should not pay for SNP financial incompetence”.

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie described the budget as “disastrous”, claiming it “drives a coach and horse through any pretence that this Government cares about the housing emergency”.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.