The head of one of Scotland’s most influential charities has launched a scathing attack on Humza Yousaf over the nation’s “housing emergency” claiming the First Minister is “gaslighting” the country.

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland – the leading housing and homelessness charity – spoke out as it emerged nearly 10,000 children are currently homeless and living in temporary accommodation, such as cheap hotels and B&Bs.

“We’re in danger of creating a lost generation of kids,” she said. Watson’s comments also follow a 26% cut of nearly £200m to affordable, social housing in the SNP-Green budget.

Read more: ‘Yousaf has no credibility': Shelter boss savages SNP over housing

Watson says the rising level of homelessness among families can only be halted by building more affordable homes.

Promises by the SNP government to build more social housing “look like a pipe dream” she said, and pledges to end homelessness “cannot be considered as anything but an abject failure”.

Homelessness is now “at an all-time high”, Watson added. There is now 15,625 households in temporary accommodation – the highest on record. Around 132,000 households are waiting for social housing, Watson says. In total, 30,724 people are deemed homeless and not in permanent accommodation.

Watson says the figures are “as shocking as they’re staggering”, and councils are now breaching “legal obligations” to provide for homeless families “on an industrial scale”.

Social housing figures show the number of new homes completed fell 2%; numbers of new social homes approved fell 18%; and numbers of new homes started fell 29%.

Read more: Scots councils break homelessness laws 6,000 times in a year

“It’s getting evermore desperate,” Watson said. “We deliberately describe what’s happening as a housing emergency. That’s not empty words.

“What we’re seeing is exceptional … The government says it’s doing great things, but these are the facts and figures. That’s why I call it gaslighting.”

She added: “The First Minister has no credibility when it comes to child poverty given his budget condemns 10,000 children to lives trapped in the homelessness system.  

“His budget cuts to social housing and local services wipe out any progress that policies such as the increase in the Scottish Child Payment can provide.

“This budget has torn up the social contract the Scottish Government has with children whose only mistake was to expect Scottish public services to help them find a home.  

“When it comes to housing and homelessness, this will be remembered as a lost parliament, one which singularly failed to rise to the challenge of the housing emergency … It’s never been as serious or challenging as it now is.”

Read more: SNP told to 'take responsibility' as 9,500 children homeless

In an extensive interview with the Herald on Sunday, Watson also revealed:

•    Families with children are being forced to stay in temporary accommodation, such as one room in cheap hotels, for “almost two years”;

•    One family with children in a cheap hotel was told to use the shower for drinking water;

•    Scotland is now “exporting homelessness” to England, with families sent to Newcastle, Birmingham and Oxford for accommodation

•    and “staggering numbers of people” have been reduced to committing crime in order to be sent to prison to get a roof over their head.

Watson warned that families in work, once previously considered financially secure, are losing their homes and becoming homeless as they can no longer afford rents or mortgages.

Family breakdown and poverty - exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis - are the two main causes of homelessness, she said.

The SNP council tax freeze is worsening the situation. “We’re increasingly seeing councils struggle because of the council tax freeze,” Watson said. “They haven’t funding to cope with rising demand and decreasing resources.”

The council tax freeze means “homeless services are further depleted financially”.

Watson added: “What’s particularly galling is the Scottish government cutting the housing budget and then blaming Westminster for decisions it made.

“Why is the Scottish government singling out the housing budget for savage cuts when homelessness is at an all-time high?

“The level of political dissonance is worrying. You can’t end homelessness on the cheap, or without more social housing.” 

Referring to the 10,000 homeless children now in temporary accommodation, Watson said: “Every day another 45 children join them. Every 16 minutes another household becomes homeless. After this week’s budget those statistics will get much worse.

“The government cannot throw up its hands and say we’re having to make 26% cuts to housing because of 4% cuts in our capital budget from Westminster - 4% cuts don’t mean they must cut housing so badly. It’s bad choices, wrong priorities.

“The impact of not enough social homes means record levels of homelessness - record levels of people in tents on the streets. Ministers are choosing to let that situation get worse.

“Inevitably, the housing emergency will become entrenched. They’re failing to recognise both the urgency and desperate nature of what’s happening. Scotland deserves better.

“The Scottish government described the current budget as ‘values-led’, but those values allow homelessness to get worse.”

Watson added: “You can understand why there’s this sense of ‘what the hell else can we do?’. There’s real concerns this becomes some dreadful new normal.”

Read more: Scottish Tories must split from extremist UK party to survive

Housing Minister Paul McLennan said: “The Scottish Government is doing everything in its powers to tackle homelessness. We have made record funding available to councils of more than £14 billion in 2024-25 – a real-terms increase of 4.3% compared with the previous year.

"This includes £30.5 million to local authorities to support their work to prevent homelessness, plus £90.5 million to spend on discretionary housing payments. We are also investing £100 million in the multi-year Ending Homelessness Together fund. I continue to work with local authorities ... to find solutions to the housing pressures they face, recognising the important role they play in tackling homelessness.
“Scotland continues to have the strongest rights anywhere in the UK for anyone who becomes homeless, but we are determined to ensure no one need become homeless in the first place and ensure people can stay in their homes.
“The Scottish Government has led the UK in housing by delivering more than 126,000 affordable homes since 2007, over 89,000 of which were for social rent, including almost 24,000 council homes. We will invest £556 million in affordable housing in 2024-25, the majority of which will be for social rent.
“Tackling these issues has been made worse by the UK Government’s freeze to Local Housing Allowance and the bedroom tax. The UK Government failed to inflation-proof its capital budget, and this has resulted in nearly a 10% real terms cut in our UK capital funding between 2023-24 and 2027-28.

"The Chancellor should do the right thing in his Budget and reverse the cuts to capital budgets, investment in housing is our number one priority should any additional capital funding become available.”