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Sturgeon launches her programme for government

Words: Laura Edgar
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has presented her programme for government, stating that the “biggest investment we can make is in our people”.

Sturgeon said the priorities would guide the government over the next five years, with “one central ambition at their heart – to make real and lasting progress towards true equality of opportunity for all”.

Speaking at Holyrood yesterday (25 May), Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would ensure that its pre-election pledge to build at least 50,000 affordable homes during this Parliament. She said at least 35,000 of these would be for social rent.

The first minister explained that the new houses would help to ensure that individuals and families across Scotland have access to “good affordable homes”.

Additionally, Sturgeon said: “They will also deliver economic benefits. Their construction will support around 14,000 full-time equivalent jobs a year and generate around £1.8 billion in economic activity.”

A £30 million boost to Help to Buy has been laid out by Sturgeon. This is aimed specifically at small to medium-sized house builders.

The government is on course to meet its current target of a 42 per cent reduction by 2020, said Sturgeon, but the government must now be “bolder”.

“We will legislate to establish a new and more testing target for 2020 - one of reducing actual Scottish emissions by at least 50 per cent.

“A tougher target gives us even greater incentive to develop clean energy, promote energy efficiency and move to a more circular economy.”

The programme also includes a “radical” package of land reform, including the removal of tax breaks for shooting estates through the Land Reform Bill, which would help to expand the Land Fund to £10 million a year. 

Sturgeon's full speech can be found on the Scottish Government's website.

Planning integral to achieving government ambitions


Craig McLaren, director of RTPI Scotland, said: “We are pleased to see the government’s commitment to build 50,000 homes over the next five years and to set more challenging emissions targets to tackle climate change.”

McLaren said to achieve these, a long term vision that identifies “sustainable and deliverable” solutions and “better links development, infrastructure  and investment”.

Planning”, he said, “is integral to this”.

“We are keen to work with the Scottish Government on their Planning Review and anticipated Planning Bill to maximise the potential that the planning system has to help them achieve their ambitions.”

Broader focus required


Nicola Barclay, chief executive at industry body Homes for Scotland, agreed with Sturgeon when she said greater opportunity of equality would help boost the economy and enhance people’s quality of life.

“Ensuring Scotland has enough homes to meet the diverse housing needs and aspirations of its growing population is absolutely fundamental to this, not only in terms of the very real social and environmental benefits it offers but also in relation to the creation of jobs, nurturing of skills and economic contribution.”

Barclay said it is essential to recognise that this requires a “broader focus than just housing for social rent, “particularly given the fact that a large number of people are not eligible for social rented housing, but still aspire to live in homes of their own”.

Renewed commitment to affordable homes welcome


Mary Taylor, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, welcomed the renewed commitment to  build 50,000 affordable homes.

“This will help to solve the housing crisis that Scotland is currently facing – and, together with our members, we stand ready to assist the government in delivering it.

“Good quality, energy-efficient, affordable housing is of vital importance to neighbourhoods, localities and communities across Scotland.”

More needs to be done


Sarah Speirs, director of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland, said that in order to tackle Scotland’s critical housing shortage “we must look beyond affordable homes”.

She welcomed the pledge to deliver 50,000 affordable homes, but said “much more must be done”.

“Not least, we would urge the government to expand the house building sector, providing opportunities for both self-builders and SME firms to establish a greater foothold,” she said.

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