I share your concern about homelessness here in Scotland. In a society as affluent as ours, nobody should have to sleep rough – just one person without a roof over their head is one too many, and so I am pleased that the UK Government has committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022, and ending it altogether by 2027.
In Scotland, housing is a devolved matter, and so primary responsibility for ending homelessness here rests with the Scottish Government. Unfortunately, between 2007, when the SNP entered office, and 2016, the number of new houses being built every year in Scotland fell to just 16,000 – just half of the SNP’s own target. The first step to ending homelessness is building enough houses for everyone, and the Scottish Government’s failure on this matter is unacceptable.
Likewise, it is important that we address the other factors that contribute to homelessness, such as mental health provision, treatment of addiction, and getting drug dealers off our streets. Healthcare and justice are also devolved matters, and I believe there is room for improvement in the Scottish Government’s approach to these important issues.
I am pleased that there is cross-party consensus that we need to do more on mental health, but the slow progress on the part of NHS Scotland under the SNP is disappointing – NHS Scotland consistently misses its targets for mental health treatment waiting times, and a person sustains an injury at a mental health unit in Scotland every hour.
Moreover, in 2017 it emerged that NHS Scotland’s health boards were all cutting funding for Alcohol and Drug Partnerships – a real blow to the fight against addiction. Combined with the SNP’s light-touch justice policies, which I fear will jeopardise efforts to get drug dealers off our streets and stop them from fuelling addiction, I am concerned that the Scottish Government is not doing enough to tackle the root causes of homelessness.
According to Heriot-Watt University, homelessness in Scotland is set to soar by 53% over the next 25 years, unless we take action. My Scottish Conservative colleagues in Holyrood have published a plan for ensuring all Scots have access to quality mental health services, and called for planning reform so more affordable homes can be built. I fully support these proposals, and I know that they will continue holding the Scottish Government to account on the scandal of homelessness in Scotland.