Why Chancellor Rachel Reeves has just upped pressure on John Swinney over housebuilding

Chancellor Rachel Reeves has vowed to overhaul planning rules in England to kickstart housebuilding - but what does that mean for Scotland?

The Scottish Government is being told it must match the new Chancellor Rachel Reeves’s housebuilding ambitions.

Ms Reeves made her debut speech as chancellor of the exchequer this morning, where she said overhauling planning regulations to build 1.5 million new homes is one of her first priorities.

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However housing is devolved to Holyrood, meaning there will be little impact of this announcement on Scotland.

This comes as the affordable housing budget was cut by £200 million at the last Scottish budget.

But the overhaul announced by Ms Reeves is centred on speeding up the planning system to make it easier for the construction industry to bring forward developments, rather than on increased government funding.

The Scottish Labour Party said the SNP government must now follow Ms Reeves’s lead when it comes to housebuilding.

Mark Griffin MSP, Scottish Labour’s housing spokesman, said: “Scotland is in the grips of a housing emergency, but the SNP’s response has been woeful.

“At a time when we need urgent action to boost housebuilding, the SNP has slashed the affordable housing budget and is gearing up to ditch its flagship affordable housing targets.

“Rachel Reeves is leading the way with Labour’s transformative plans to boost housebuilding in England - the SNP must raise its game and match this level of ambition in Scotland.”

Since the last budget was set by Finance Secretary Shona Robison, the Scottish Government has declared a housing emergency with over 20,000 people now homeless in Scotland.

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This comes after numerous councils, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, declared local housing emergencies.

Now Ms Reeves insists she wants to see social and affordable homes built in England, and says the UK Government needs the private sector’s help to build these homes.

In her speech, she said: “We are not going to be in the business of building those homes directly.

“We need the construction sector, the housebuilding sector, to build those homes.”

She added: “We are not going to let people off the hook, we want affordable housing and we want housing for social rent as well

“That is an important part of the mix.

“So this is not a green light for any type of housing.

“We want, and I said in the speech that the deputy prime minister will take an interventionist approach to make sure that we have got the housing mix that our country needs, that our people need.”

Ms Reeves used her opening speech to insist economic growth will be her government’s national mission, and said she is undertaking an assessment of her office’s “spending inheritance”.

She said: “I have repeatedly warned that whoever won the general election would inherit the worst set of circumstances since the Second World War.

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“What I have seen in the past 72 hours has only confirmed that.

“Our economy has been held back by decisions deferred and decisions ducked.

“Political self-interest put ahead of the national interest [and] a government that put party first and country second.

“We face the legacy of 14 years of chaos and economic irresponsibility.”

In her speech she also said a taskforce which was set up in March has already reported back to her on options to create a national wealth fund.

Labour’s manifesto said the £1.5 billion wealth fund would be partly-funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas giants in the North Sea, which is expected to bring around £1.2bn to the Treasury.

She also has instructed Treasury officials to give an overview of this spending inheritance, and said she will present this to parliament before the summer recess.

Ms Reeves added this update will be separate from her first budget, which she will hold later this year.

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Elsewhere in her speech the chancellor said “Britain is a place to do business” and said her party would not renege on the tax promises they made during the election, including no increases to national insurance or VAT.

She said: “To investors and businesses who spent 14 years doubting whether Britain is a safe place to invest - let me tell you that after 14 years, Britain has a stable government, a government which respects business, wants to partner with business, and is open for business.

“In an uncertain world, Britain is a place to do business.”

The chancellor’s “first steps” for her handling of the purse strings would be to set out her government’s budget.

She said: “I know we can’t turn things around overnight [and] we face a dire inheritance, but this is our downpayment.

“These are the first steps we will take to bring that growth back to the economy and I’m determined to work, as are all of my colleagues, to do that, to unlock the private sector investment we need to grow our economy.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government recognises the crucial role of planning and development in growing the economy, achieving net zero and tackling the housing emergency. We have already significantly reformed Scotland’s planning system and are now focused on ensuring planning authorities have the capacity and skills to improve consistency and increase confidence and certainty in the planning process.

“We would welcome the opportunity to share learning from our reforms with the UK Government as part of activity to establish a constructive relationship.  That would build on the learning and good practice that is already shared across the 5 nations by Chief Planners.”

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