Shirley-Anne Somerville has rejected claims the Scottish Government is “gaslighting” Scots by talking up its record in office while watching child homelessness rise.

The accusation was made by Alison Watson, Director of Shelter Scotland, in an interview with the Herald on Sunday.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf is 'gaslighting' Scotland, says Shelter boss

There are now 15,625 households in temporary accommodation, with 30,724 people currently deemed homeless and nearly 10,000 children living in temporary accommodation.

Despite that SNP and Green MSPs last week pushed through a £196m cut to the affordable housing budget.

Ms Watson told The Herald on Sunday: “It’s getting ever more desperate. 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.”

The Herald: Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland pictured in Glasgow. 

  Photograph by Colin Mearns
29 February 2024
For Herald on Sunday Big Read, interve by Neil Mackay

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.”

READ MORE: 'Humza Yousaf has no credibility' says Shelter Scotland boss

Asked about the comments in Holyrood by Tory MSP Graham Simpson, Ms Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, said the Scottish Government was “doing everything in its power to tackle homelessness.”

The SNP minister said: “The brass neck of a conservative member of the Scottish Parliament coming here and trying with crocodile tears to say that they are concerned about levels of homelessness or the housing budget when they themselves, their party has ensured that we are seeing a massive cut to our capital budget.”

She added: “It does have an impact on what we can do up here when the UK Government sees fit to cut our budget by 10% in real terms over the next few years, and also take an absolute axe to the financial transactions, which are important in our affordable housing supply.”

The minister said Scotland had delivered over 40% more affordable homes per head of population than England, and over 70% More than Wales.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond's Alba in disarray as founding members quit in trans row

“That was an absolutely disgraceful answer,” Mr Simpson replied. “Homelessness is at an all time high.”

He pointed to comments from John Blackwood, of the Scottish Association of Landlords, who said a “combination of anti-landlord rhetoric, along with short term ineffective policies” had harmed investment in private rented housing in Scotland.

Mr Simpson added: “Three councils have declared a housing emergency. The entire housing sector is saying there's a housing emergency. Can the Cabinet Secretary not admit that there is a housing emergency?”

Ms Somervile said if Mr Simpson had any influence with the Chancellor, he should encourage him to reinstate the capital budget.

“We have made funding available of more than £14 billion to councils within 24/25. And within that we've committed £35 million paying for specific action to end homelessness and rough sleeping. We've also, of course, taken action on temporary accommodation.”

The minister said she would appreciate that Shelter had concerns and would “continue that dialogue with them.”

She added: “But I would point to, for example, some of the other impacts on homelessness, for example, around the local housing allowance, which has been frozen for three years by the UK Government, and of which a recent report in cases said was one of the main drivers in homelessness last year.”