By Alison Watson

IN his report earlier this year in which he made the case for investment in social housing, Stephen Boyle, former chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, claimed that building more social homes could add billions to Scotland’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

Money aside, he also laid bare the human cost of Scotland’s housing emergency.

The impact of growing up in an overcrowded house, he said, are especially long-lasting and linked in adulthood to increased risks of respiratory problems, some cancers and being depressed by the age of 23.

Children living in cold homes, he reported, are twice as likely as others to develop cardiovascular diseases and they have higher probabilities of contracting minor illnesses, which stops them from attending school, interacting with their peers and developing vital life skills.

On the other hand, he observed that children who live in decent houses have better educational attainment and health, making them more productive in life. According to his report, if all children had the same access to a safe and warm home, this alone could add £1.5 billion of GDP in Scotland through their productivity alone.

It is a stark reminder that not every person in 21st century Scotland has the same opportunity to a warm, safe and secure place they can call home, and in turn the same health equalities.

Our latest research supports just that.

Our study, released today, shows that one in 10 adults in Scotland – equivalent to 444,000 people – say their current home harms their health.

The same poll found that 18% – equivalent to 799,000 people – said their experiences of finding and keeping a home makes them worry about the likelihood of finding a suitable home in the future, while 17% of people said they would be unable to heat their home in winter.

I write this not to shock, but as one of the many cold, hard facts of Scotland’s housing emergency.

It is a mark of shame that in 21st century Scotland so many people are forced to live in substandard housing, often breathing in the mould and damp that surrounds them day in and day out. It harms not only their physical health, but their mental wellbeing too, often affecting relationships, the ability of their children to do homework in a safe environment, keep warm at night, and so much more.

Scotland can do better than this. Home is everything and that’s why we’re encouraging people to stand alongside those impacted by the housing emergency to Fight for Home.

We are calling on the Scottish Government to look closer to home for the reasons behind Scotland’s dire educational and health inequalities.

Scotland urgently needs investment in new social homes and action to bring existing homes to a good standard, both the private and social sectors.

Until then, hundreds of thousands of people, families and children will continue to experience harm in the very places they should feel most safe.

Alison Watson is Director of Shelter Scotland