SCOTLAND’S housing emergency and growing homelessness must be addressed urgently by the Scottish Government and the building of affordable homes must be a priority, according to prominent entrepreneurs Lord Willie Haughey and Sir Tom Hunter.

Discussing the crisis on the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey, they criticised the decision by the Scottish Government to cut nearly £200 million from the affordable housing budget in its 2024/25 Budget, questioning how this could possibly help what is a growing problem across Scotland.

Lord Haughey was particularly vocal on the subject during yesterday’s show. “The Scottish Government have sliced £196m off the affordable housing budget and when you have experts like Shelter, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Scottish Association of Landlords [criticising the decision], it’s absolute madness,” he said.

“We have a crisis with homelessness, a crisis with people sleeping rough,” he added. “I believe that 48% of young people looking for accommodation will be unsuccessful. So how can cutting the affordable housing budget be the answer?”

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Adding further fuel to the topic, yesterday’s Herald on Sunday reported comments from Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland – the leading housing and homelessness charity – who spoke out as it emerged nearly 10,000 children are currently homeless and living in temporary accommodation, such as cheap hotels and B&Bs.

She launched a scathing attack on Humza Yousaf over the nation’s housing emergency, claiming the First Minister is “gaslighting” the country and that promises by his government to build more social housing “look like a pipe dream” while pledges to end homelessness “cannot be considered as anything but an abject failure”.

Pointing out that Glasgow, Edinburgh and Argyll & Bute councils last year declared housing emergencies because of a lack of housing supply and record levels of people in temporary accommodation, Sir Tom said: “We have multiple local authorities declaring housing emergencies, Glasgow being the biggest, but there is nearly £200m coming off the budget – I just don’t get it.”

Asked how he would solve the problem, Lord Haughey answered: “I wouldn’t cut the budget. Surely Glasgow, Edinburgh and Argyll & Bute councils declaring housing emergencies is a huge hint? There are various council leaderships – across all the parties – who are not happy with some of the things going on.”

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Elaborating on how the country gets the “best bang for its buck” when it comes to housing, he said: “How do we get to a situation where we are going to build the number of houses that we need? It’s interesting because before the fintech boom the barometer for how the UK was doing was how many houses were built that year.

“This would be the number one item on the news 40 years ago – I think we have to go back to that. We are building nowhere near the amount of houses that we require and this should be the number one priority for any government at the moment.”

Highlighting affordable housing and climate change as the two most topical subjects at the moment, Lord Haughey suggested that these “two negatives could be turned into an almighty benefit”, adding: “The amount of jobs we could create for young people and apprenticeships, the number of people we could get back into trades, upskilling people – we’re going to need a lot more people than is available at the moment.

“We’ve lost so many tradespeople through lack of training over the past 25 years and it’s frightening but there is an opportunity to try to get all the energy supplied into houses in Scotland as clean energy.”

He said there had to be a drive towards building bigger and better affordable homes – and change the mindset that “it’s not the end of the world if you don’t own your home”, pointing to the model in some European countries where renting is the norm. “There are thousands of people who can’t get on the property ladder who are trying to rent so let’s try to create a society where we build nice houses for people.”

Lord Haughey also called for the government and industry to stop using the word “social” when referring to housing for rent, suggesting it is possible to build homes for different levels of affordability. “We have to look at a clever way to build more affordable houses at a more competitive price,” he added.

From Sir Tom’s perspective, the current housing crisis needs to be addressed by “people who know what they’re talking about. He said it wasn’t “good enough” for the Scottish Government simply to say “no, there’s no money” and blame the cut to the affordable housing budget on the UK Government.

Hitting out at the Scottish Government, he added: “On one side of the equation we tax businesses and people and on the other side the government decides how to allocate and spend the money. There doesn’t seem to be any effort to say ‘are we getting value for money in our spending’ – once again it is politicians who frankly don’t understand what they are doing.

“They are writing policy in a vacuum but they have to understand who is paying for these policies. It is businesses and the individual taxpayer – and they are being poorly represented.”