HOMELESS children and pregnant women have been put up in substandard housing hundreds of times in the last year across Scotland.

Councils have breached unsuitable temporary accommodation (UTA) orders 750 times in just 12 months, according to official figures.

The orders are designed to provide better quality housing for families with children and pregnant women, by ensuring they are not living in hostels, hotels and B&Bs for more than seven days.

However local authorities have flouted the rules repeatedly, with Edinburgh City Council accounting for 540 (72%) of the national total for September 2017 - September 2018.

West Lothian has breached the order 120 times in the same period, while Glasgow did so just 10 times. Clackmannanshire was the lowest, with less than four breaches in 12 months.

It comes after the Herald on Sunday last week revealed the true state of temporary housing, with people left languishing in squalid hotels and B&Bs for weeks and months.

For the cost of the squalid rooms- £316 per week - penthouse apartments, five bedroom family homes and luxury flats could be rented out.

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said she was horrified to discover that Edinburgh breached the orders on unsuitable temporary housing so many times, and called for urgent action.

She asked the government for the figures following our investigation.

The Lothian MSP said:" These figures reveal that the staggering number of individuals and families in Edinburgh who are more likely than anywhere else in Scotland to be placed into unsuitable temporary accommodation.

"Every year thousands of people themselves homeless, for a variety of reasons and very often through no fault of their own, are being placed in wholly inadequate accommodation.

"The reality of these breaches often mean that families are being crowded into tiny rooms, kitchen facilities are limited, beds and linen are dirty, and in bed and breakfast accommodation residents often face being forced out at 9am and having nowhere else to go until they are allowed back later in the afternoon."

A report by charity Crisis last year revealed that the majority of people living in temporary homeless accommodation had depression, three quarters were unable to have visits from friends or family, and almost half had no access to basic facilities such as a kitchen or washing machine.

The charity urged the government to legislate to ensure nobody would be housed in these conditions for more than seven days, which is currently under consideration.

Ms Dugdale said the council budget cuts have contributed to the continuation of poor homeless accommodation.

She said: "The SNP Government introduced legislation in 2014 which effectively banned the use of B&B accommodation for families with children without there being exceptional circumstances, however their continued cuts to council budgets is making the situation worse, while the Tories’ Universal Credit roll-out compounds the problems that already exist on the ground. It’s time that we got serious about the scandal of homelessness and provide suitable temporary accommodation for those who need it.”

Edinburgh City Council said it has been working hard to reduce the number of UTA breaches they have, but pressures on housing stock mean not enough temporary furnished flats are available for those who need them.

A plan to build an extra 10,000 affordable homes in the next five years is currently underway, but with the city having the most expensive rental rates in the country and a lack of social housing, the problem of homelessness is not easily solved.

Councillor Kate Campbell, Edinburgh's housing and economy convener, said: “Temporary furnished flats are the most suitable form of accommodation for homeless families, but we don’t always have enough properties available for families when they first present as homeless.

“The difficulty for us is that if we take a social home out of permanent supply to make it a temporary flat we are reducing the number of permanent homes available, meaning it takes longer for homeless families to be permanently housed. Instead we’ve been increasing the number of temporary flats from the private sector, so that we can offer households with children a flat more quickly, but without having an impact on the supply of social homes.

“The number of families, and the length of time they spend in B&Bs has come down significantly – from a high of 84 families last February to just eight today.

"This is still not good enough and we are working hard, and absolutely focussed, on making that number zero.

“Housing supply is a huge issue for Edinburgh. We have only 15% social housing compared to a national average of 24%. And we’ve got the most expensive private rents in the country.

"This means that even though we are reducing the number of homeless presentations every year through preventative work, it still takes too long for households to get a permanent, settled home.

“We have a detailed action plan to end the use of temporary accommodation."

The Scottish Government’s housing minister Kevin Stewart said he "will not tolerate" the breaches of UTA orders, and met councils with the highest number of breaches to "agree solutions".

He said:" “While temporary accommodation provides an important safety net in emergency situations, we are clear such arrangements must be for as short a time as possible and we have asked local authorities and their partners to transition to a rapid rehousing approach.

"We recognise some of them face particular challenges in providing appropriate housing for homeless families, which is why we provided an additional £23.5 million for rapid rehousing and Housing First.

“Our Unsuitable Accommodation Order legislation ensures families with children and pregnant women should only stay in accommodation such as B&Bs for a maximum of seven days and I will not tolerate breaches of the Order."