Housing Scotland: What does a housing emergency mean? What does it change following Scottish Government move?

The Scottish Government is expected to declare a housing emergency in a debate at Holyrood - but there is no indication to date of further funding commitments

The Scottish Government will declare a national housing emergency later today - but what does the move change?

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville will make the announcement during a Scottish Labour debate on Wednesday afternoon on Scotland’s housing crisis - but the immediate impact of the move will be limited without any additional finance support, with no emergency powers triggered.

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The declarataion comes after Edinburgh, Glasgow, Argyll and Bute, Fife and West Dunbartonshire councils all declared housing emergencies.

Ms Somerville is expected to blame UK government austerity and Brexit for the widespread housing problems - but UK ministers say the Scottish Government receives around 25 per cent more funding per person than other parts of the UK.

Why does Scotland have a housing emergency?

Welfare agencies have largely blamed a lack of good-quality social housing for the emergency.

According to Shelter Scotland, more than 15,000 households are living in temporary accommodation , as of September last year.

Soaring rent prices, the cost-of-living crisis and a slowdown in housing construction are additional pressures.

Ms Somerville said: “Scotland has a serious problem that we all need to get behind. The reason we took this decision is we want to get away from defining the problem and onto what we can do to stop this.

“The UK government, Scottish Government and local authorities need to work together to see how we can solve this.”

Ms Somerville denied accusations the government was only declaring this emergency because they were worried they will lose the vote to Scottish Labour on Wednesday afternoon.

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Ms Somerville said newly-appointed First Minister John Swinney had challenged all ministers to be honest with the public and other political parties about the reality of running a minority government.

She said: “I want to use the debate today to recognise that Scotland is working with a 9 per cent cut to our capital budget, which has impacted on our plans. I think it is important we look at the financial reality we are in.

“These cuts have come at the same time as rocketing construction inflation because of Tory mismanagement of the UK economy - I’m not blaming anyone, that’s just the context.”

Ms Somerville said she was open to discussing suggestions from opposition parties beyond “spending more money” to tackle the issue.

What does declaring a housing emergency mean? Does it provide extra powers?

Declaring a housing emergency means the government is formally recognising the housing problem, and calling for cuts to its capital budget to be reversed.

However, there will be no automatic effects triggered off the back of this - nothing will automatically change for those experiencing homelessness or other housing issues.

Is the Scottish Government to blame?

In its 2024/25 budget the Scottish Government cut the affordable housing budget by £200m, which finance secretary Shona Robison said was due to Westminster cuts. Before resigning as first minister last month, Humza Yousaf announced an £80m increase to this budget over the next two years

What does the UK government have to say?

A spokesperson for the UK government said: “Decisions at the spring budget took our direct investment in levelling-up Scotland past the £3 billion mark, and the Scottish Government receives around 25 per cent more funding per person than equivalent UK Government spending in other parts of the UK through its record £41bn per year settlement.”



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