It was on May 15, that the Scottish Government declared a housing emergency - nearly a year after the first of ten local authorities beat them to the punch.

Argyll and Bute council was the first to make a symbolic statement in June 2023, stating that it was a "call to action" to tackle what it saw as a housing shortage.

And as The Herald today launches a major new series investigating Scotland's housing and homelessness emergency and just what needs to be done to end the crisis, it has emerged that the council has real concerns that is driving depopulation.

Argyll and Bute is the second-largest administrative area of any of the 32 Scottish councils and is home to some of Scotland's most beautiful rural and coastal areas and islands including a host of islands from Bute, Islay and Mull to Colonsay, Jura and Tiree.

A matter of months after the declaration the council launched two surveys asking for views on housing from the community and businesses, which revealed the depths of concerns.

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Having had hundreds of responses, the council found that 92% felt their communities were negatively impacted by the housing shortage with 68% believing young people were leaving due to a lack of housing opportunities.

Some 75% of employers said a shortage of housing was a barrier to recruiting or retaining staff and 70% felt people moving into communities were pricing local people out of the market.

A further study commissioned by the council on the response to the emergency seen by The Herald details the full extent of the concerns over the crisis.

It found that two in three households believed that young people are leaving their communities due to a lack of housing with the working age population projected to drop by almost 30% by 2028.

While it has recorded the highest level of second home ownership in the country just one in four can afford the average house price which was in 2022/23 was £219,000.

Some 15% of the area's existing housing stock was not being uses as a main residence, with 4.4% empty homes, 5.9% second homes and 4.9% shot term lets.

It found half of households in the area could not afford to access the housing market with 43% of sales to households from outwith the area.

And there were 3,290 people on housing waiting lists last year, an 8% rise in just one year.

And it discovered that for the first time in two decades, the private rented sector was shrinking.

There were some six applicants for every available social let in the area, rising to ten in Coll and Tiree, according to an analysis in February, this year.

Tiree  (Image: YouTube)

Their initial surveys also raised concerns that 68% felt local services like GP surgeries, schools and shops had a shortage of people to do essential jobs due to lack of housing. Some 46% said there were not enough homes to buy and 43% said there were not enough quality private rented properties.

There was no shortage of suggested solutions.

Some 66% said there was a need to build more homes for social rent, 64% called for a cut in the number of second homes and short term lets and 62% said more low cost homes should be provided for rent or sale.

And 55% said that the council should ensure that local people have priority for homes on the market, not people moving into the area.

The council has agreed a to levy a tax on second homes, meaning owners now have to pay double from April 1.

From today, our series put together by our team of reporters will deep dive into the true extent of the crisis, going beyond just the politics to dig into the facts and figures, get the views of the experts and those affected by the crisis.

We will examine how many actually are needing help to the state of play regarding the building of necessary homes across the country.

We will reveal the depth of the reliance on temporary halfway house accommodation because of a lack of permanent, settled houses.

It will feature expert comment, opinion and analysis of the issues.

There will be an examination of the impact on rural areas and how the insecure housing situation is affecting children's education and people's health.

In today's coverage we reveal how a surge of Scots children equivalent to the population of St Andrews were being declared as homeless last year in a national housing scandal which has prompted a host of experts and anti-poverty campaigners to demand immediate action.

We tell how a mother who lost her son in temporary accommodation has called for action to end the "dumping" of homeless people in unsuitable accommodation.

And we reveal the cost of that "dumping" across Scotland amidst cuts amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds to the Scottish Government's affordable homes budget.

Joining Argyll and Bute Council in making emergency declarations was Edinburgh, Glasgow City in November last year followed by Fife, West Dunbartonshire, Scottish Borders, West Lothian and South Lanarkshire, Angus and Dumfries and Galloway.

The SNP supported a Scottish Parliament vote declaring a nationwide housing emergency as opposition MSPs pushed for a coherent plan to address the situation.

Scottish Labour tabled the motion which made the declaration with the Government submitting an amendment accepting issues in the sector.

With the Bute House Agreement having collapsed the previous month, this was the first vote for the Scottish Government they risked losing without the support of the Greens.

But social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville took aim at the UK Government, claiming increased inflation, Brexit and the 9% cut to the capital block grant had all substantially contributed to the current housing situation.

Subscribe to The Herald to read the series in full this week.