Scottish Lib Dems vow action to end ‘national scandal’ of homelessness

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has set out plans to end homelessness.

Describing homelessness as a national scandal, Mr Rennie questioned why it took a pandemic for the Scottish Government to try and house all rough sleepers.

At the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Scotland last year, the Government, local authorities and charities worked to move all homeless people into safe housing, including temporary accommodation, hotels and bed and breakfasts.

During an election campaign stop in Colinton, south-west Edinburgh, on Thursday, Mr Rennie said new laws are needed to strengthen the duties on public bodies to prevent homelessness, in addition to building more affordable homes.

The party’s manifesto calls for 60,000 new homes to be built, of which 40,000 should be available for social rent.

The party says about 100 homeless applications are made every day in Scotland, with around 150,000 people on council housing waiting lists.

The latest figures show 216 people registered as homeless died during 2019, an increase of 11% and three times the rate of the rest of the UK.

Mr Rennie said: “Whether it’s living on the streets, sofa-surfing or shuttling between temporary accommodation, these situations take a huge toll on people’s mental and physical health.

“It also exerts a huge toll on children’s education and development. It stops people getting on in life.

“Homelessness in Scotland and across the UK has long been a national scandal.

“The work that was done at the outset of the crisis was striking, but it also raised questions about why interventions on this scale couldn’t have been done before.

“Many nationalist voters that I speak to have seen doubts creep in over the way that the Government finds time for new independence legislation but not for cracking down on the scourge of homelessness.

“As we build back from the pandemic, we have a chance to do things differently.

“I want to deliver new homes and an end to homelessness and rough sleeping through new prevention legislation, and by taking forward the Housing First and Rapid Rehousing principles.

“However that opportunity will slip away if we get a nationalist majority who will spend the next five years arguing about independence.

“I want to win over new voters to the Scottish Liberal Democrats who can help us to put recovery first.”

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