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Tory MSP blasts affordable housing budget move

By Alan Beresford

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THE Scottish Government’s decision to cut investment in social and affordable homes by £268 million has been condemned by a local MSP.

It came as Finance Secretary Kate Forbes laid out the government's budget plans at Holyrood.

However, the move was blasted by Highlands and Islands Conservative Jamie Halcro Johnston.

He said: “The lack of affordable housing is one of the greatest challenges facing communities across the Highlands and Islands.

“It impacts on far too many communities, leaving young people, families and some of our most vulnerable struggling to find the security of a permanent home.

“Too many of our communities already face depopulation and falling school roles and, by making this cut, the SNP government is showing once again that it simply does not understand the priorities of any part of Scotland that falls outside the Central Belt.

“Local people will find it extraordinary that SNP ministers have chosen to slash this budget while, at the same time, increasing the so-called Government Business and Constitutional Relations Policy budget by nearly £4 million compared to last year.

“This means that nearly £15 million of taxpayers’ money will be spent by the SNP on a unit that is dedicated to the SNP’s obsession with independence.

“These decisions tell you all you need to know about the real priorities of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government.

“I hope SNP MSPs across the Highlands and Island will consider whether their ministerial positions and government salaries are worth their support for a cut which will have such an impact on our constituents and our communities”.

However, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said that budget announced a £17 million increase to help meet the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this parliament.

A further £300 million was also committed for 2021-22 to ensure affordable homes continue to be delivered beyond the current parliamentary term.

She continued: “Ensuring everyone has access to a safe, warm and affordable place to call home is at the heart of our ambition for a Fairer Scotland.

"The 2020-21 Scottish budget adds to the single biggest investment and delivery of affordable housing since devolution.

“The Scottish Government has now committed more than £3.5 billion to deliver good quality, secure and affordable homes, which will in turn help create strong, sustainable communities. Since 2007 we have delivered more than 89,000 affordable homes, including 61,356 for social rent, with the remainder for affordable home ownership and affordable rent.

“Importantly, our spending plans also include a £300 million commitment to guarantee that affordable homes continue to be delivered beyond our 50,000 target, ensuring councils, housing associations and the construction sector have some financial certainty ahead of the spending review in June.”

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