Nicola Sturgeon: We have ‘moral duty’ to take action on rent prices

Scotland’s First Minister has said her government will seek to respond to concerns from landlords over emergency legislation on rent – but she added there is a “moral duty” to help those struggling with bills.

Landlords have expressed frustration over Nicola Sturgeon’s promise to freeze rents as part of measures to deal with the “humanitarian emergency” caused by the cost-of-living crisis.

Brian Gilmour, of independent letting agent Indigo Square, said that the policy is “reflective of people who make a decision that grabs the headline who don’t understand the marketplace they are talking about”.

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He argued that landlords are also having to deal with rising costs, with increases in interest rates affecting mortgages, along with higher costs for buildings insurance.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to Shelter Scotland in Edinburgh
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The Scottish Property Federation also warned the move could “derail efforts to improve the supply of new, purpose-built homes for rent”, while housing associations fear it will make it harder for Scotland to meet its affordable housebuilding targets.

Ms Sturgeon addressed the reaction as she and Patrick Harvie visited Shelter Scotland’s head office in Edinburgh on Wednesday, where they discussed the rent freezes and a moratorium on evictions.

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She said: “Firstly, this is an emergency, and governments have a duty – actually, given the nature of this emergency, I think a moral duty – to do everything we can to help, and that’s why we’re going to introduce emergency legislation.

“We will do that at pace because it is an emergency. But we will of course consult in the process of that with landlords, with tenants organisations, and seek to respond to as many points of detail as possible.

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“But this is about trying to make sure that as people are struggling to heat their homes, as they’re struggling to feed their children – and we’re not just talking about small minority now in this position, we’re talking about a growing number of people – we’re taking whatever action we can to protect the roofs over people’s heads and to bear down on one of the biggest costs that most people will have to face – in this case, their rent.”

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens co-leader, said that while there are already protections in place for tenants, they must be made “more robust”.

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He said: “The Scottish Government has a long-term commitment to reforming the renting sector. Stronger rights, more protection from eviction, as well as the the introduction of a national system of rent controls.

“I really want to remind people that there are some protections already in there.”

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He added: “But right now, we need to make those those protections more robust. There is an emergency happening and that emergency legislation, although it will be temporary, will be a proper response to the crisis that people are facing.”

He said there is ambition for the legislation to give equal protection to those living in student accommodation, but said the Government would “need to work through the detail” of how to achieve this.

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Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said she welcomed the measures outlined in Tuesday’s Programme for Government.

But she warned Shelter is “not sure” that they will make an “immediate impact on the thousands of families who are already struggling”.

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