Housing, energy efficiency and welfare feature high on SNP manifesto
The SNP has unveiled plans for 50,000 new affordable homes, a Warm Homes Bill to help tackle fuel poverty and a social security system based on dignity and respect should it win the upcoming Holyrood election.
Unveiling its manifesto for re-election yesterday, party leader Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP will invest over £3 billion over the next parliament to deliver at least 50,000 new affordable houses, of which at least 35,000 will be houses for social rent, and will also continue to support council house building.
Other housing policies include plans to:
The manifesto pledges to bring forward a Planning Reform Bill based on the recommendations of the Planning Review due in the summer. The aim of which is to streamline development planning and management procedures and practices to remove unnecessary blockages and delays. Amendments will also be made to the Planning Obligations in order to stop unnecessary delays to projects.
It also includes plans to make existing homes more energy efficient to cut bills, reduce emissions and improve health.
The party plans to tackle fuel poverty with an initial investment of £103 million in 2016/17 to install energy efficiency measures in a further 14,000 homes. It will prioritise the development of the district heating system and establish a loan fund for this purpose.
The SNP also plans to introduce a Warm Homes Bill in the next parliament.
Other energy efficiency proposals include plans to:
To tackle long-term homelessness, the SNP said it will continue to develop a joined up approach between local government, health, social services and the third sector.
By the end of the next parliament the party will ensure that all temporary accommodation is the same standard as permanent accommodation. It will also introduce a cap of one week for families with children and pregnant women living in B&B accommodation unless there are exceptional circumstances.
The SNP has also pledged to restore Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds if the UK government goes ahead with plans to remove it.
On welfare the party plans to invest more than £200 million to make social security fairer and will introduce a Scottish Social Security Bill in the first year of the next parliament.
It will increase the Carer’s Allowance so that it matches Jobseekers Allowance and maintain the Winter Fuel Payment for pensioners and establish a new Scottish Social Security Agency to administer devolved benefits.
The SNP will maintain the level of disability benefits and make the process of assessment fairer and abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ as soon as it has the power to do so.
Other key proposals in the manifesto include:
National homelessness charity Crisis welcomed the focus on homelessness, particularly on protecting support for young people, but warned there is still much to do to arrest the growing number of homeless people stuck in unsuitable temporary accommodation.
Crisis chief executive, Jon Sparkes, said: “We are pleased to see the SNP’s manifesto reflect the importance of tackling and preventing homelessness. We warmly welcome their commitment to protect housing benefit for 18-21’s and look forward to working with them to address the themes identified in our own Manifesto to End Homelessness.
“Measures to improve support for people in temporary accommodation – including making temporary accommodation the same standard as permanent accommodation and limiting the maximum stay in B&Bs to one week for families with children - are certainly very encouraging, but do not address the rising number of single homeless people stuck in temporary accommodation with their lives on hold, often for months at a time.
“The next Scottish Government must extend time limits in unsuitable temporary accommodation to all homeless people. We need to ensure homeless people have swift access to suitable, permanent housing and we look forward to working with the SNP to achieve this.”
The Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Greens and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have already launched their manifestos, with Scottish Labour still to unveil theirs.