THE death rate for homeless people in Scotland is more than double that of England and Wales, according to new data.

Experimental statistics from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) estimated the number of deaths of people experiencing homelessness at 195 in 2018.

HeraldScotland: Camley's cartoon: Scotland has worst rate of death for homelessCamley's cartoon: Scotland has worst rate of death for homeless

This was an increase of 19 per cent on the 164 deaths in 2017, which included people in temporary accommodation as well as rough sleepers.

Crisis Scotland called the figures "damning".

The average age at death in 2018 was 43 for females and 44 for males.

More than half the deaths were drug-related (104 or 53%), and 79% were males.

NRS said Scotland “had the highest rate of homeless deaths of all GB countries in 2018 with a rate of 35.9 per million of population compared to 16.8 in England and 14.5 in Wales”.

Glasgow had the highest rate of homeless deaths in Scotland in 2018 at 100.5 per million of population, followed by Aberdeen City at 67.8 per million.

Although NRS said Shetland islands had a homeless death rate of 111.8 per million, this was based on a very small number of deaths and “should be interpreted with caution”.

Four of Scotland’s 32 councils - Angus, East Renfrewshire, Moray and Scottish Borders - had no identified hornless deaths in 2018.

NRS said the estimate for the Scottish deaths had a confidence interval of +/- 11.9, meaning the true number was likely to be within the range of 183 to 207.

The range for 2017 was 151 to 177.

The total homeless deaths estimate for England was 692 in 2018 and 34 in Wales.

NRS chief executive Paul Lowe said: “NRS has developed a method of estimating the incidence of homeless deaths in response to user demand.

“It is important to stress that these are experimental statistics and we will continue to work with users and stakeholders to assess their suitability and quality, as we continue to develop our methodology in future years.”

Grant Campbell, Director of Crisis Scotland, said: “For the first time, we can see the true, devastating scale of the number of people who have died without a place to call home, because of failings within the very system which should have prevented them from falling into poverty and homelessness in the first place.

"Behind these figures are human beings - mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. 

“Every death must be fully investigated so that we can learn from the failings which caused someone to die without a home.

"We’re pleased to see commitments from Scottish Government towards ending homelessness, such as the push towards providing long-term homes and wrap around support for those with complex needs, as well as doing more to help people from losing their homes in the first place.

"Despite this, we still have the highest rates of homeless deaths in Great Britain. This is a damning and urgent reminder that we need to do so much more to support some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Sean Clerkin, of the Scottish Tenants Organisation, said the death rates were “unacceptable”.

He said: “The Scottish Government must dramatically increase resources and help for the homeless because they are failing the homeless at the current time.”

LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These figures are absolutely devastating.

"Both of Scotland’s governments should be mortified and guilt-ridden by the frequency of deaths on our streets and in temporary accommodation. Hundreds of people, and each of their families, have been utterly failed.

“It’s one of the most basic responsibilities of the state to look after those who don’t even have a roof over their head. Sleeping rough is a dreadful fate, especially in the depths of winter, and it is taking a terrible toll. 

“Scottish Liberal Democrats argued against the SNP’s cuts to drug and alcohol partnership budgets and have pressed for the establishment of a Scotland-wide network of heroin-assisted treatment.

"The Scottish Conservatives must also put pressure on Boris Johnson to end the punishing social security policies which are putting people at greater risk of homelessness.

“The country cannot afford to continue to look the other way.”

SNP housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “The reasons that lead to homelessness are often very complex, and many people who died while experiencing homelessness will have struggled with complex life challenges including addiction, poor mental health, and family breakdown.

"These challenges are often driven by a history of poverty, childhood adversity and trauma, including deteriorating physical and mental health, poor housing, contact with the criminal justice system, and other issues.

“This report shows that of the number of people who died while experiencing homelessness, 53% were drug related deaths.

"This reflects the wider public health emergency Scotland is facing over drug deaths. The next meeting of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group will have a specific focus on public health and addiction issues and both myself and the Public Health Minister will be attending.

“One person being made homeless is one too many and that is why the Scottish Government are working in partnership to transform services to ensure our system supports those at risk.

“While this report is based on experimental statistics, it’s findings will help the Scottish Government to further understand the many issues affecting the most vulnerable in our society and will help us as we double our efforts to eradicate homelessness and it’s causes, in Scotland.”