NICOLA Sturgeon launched the SNP’s election campaign with a promise to build 50,000 new homes.
The manifesto commitment came as the First Minister addressed delegates in Aberdeen at the party’s annual conference.
“Making sure that everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home”, Sturgeon said, was key to her government’s ambition to make Scotland, “fairer and more prosperous”.
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Sturgeon said: “We have a good record on housing. In this Parliament, we had a target of building 30,000 affordable homes and we are on track to meet it. We also started a new generation of council house building. And we have taken steps to safeguard social housing for the future by abolishing the right to buy. We must now go further and we will.
“Our plans must be affordable. But they must also be ambitious. I am therefore announcing today a bold new commitment. If we are re-elected next May, our target in the next Parliament will be to build at least 50,000 new affordable homes.”
LibDem housing spokesman Jim Hume MSP said the promise should be taken with a pinch of salt: “This announcement may have gone down well in the conference hall but people living in communities screaming out for proper investment in socially-rented housing will take SNP promises on housing with a fist of salt.”
There was a welcome for the commitment from housing charities. Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, welcomed the First Minister’s pledge as “undoubtedly good news for people across Scotland.”
Brown continued: “It is only by delivering a real step change in the supply of affordable housing that we can bring hope to the 150,000 households currently on waiting lists for a home in Scotland and the almost 5,000 children who will wake up homeless across the country tomorrow.”
Mary Taylor, the chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said: “We are extremely pleased that the SNP has listened to SFHA and others by committing to build 50,000 new affordable homes in Scotland, nearly double the target in the current Parliament. The announcement of a pot of £3 billion in funding gives room for significant subsidy to the social housing element at affordable rents. This will help our members to plan programmes of affordable housing on the ground. Our sector stands ready to work with the government to deliver this ambition.”
During the speech, the first minister also challenged delegates to work on changing the minds of those who voted No in the referendum last year. This, she said, would be the only way to achieve independence.
Sturgeon said: “We have to build the case and make it even stronger. We have to convince those we didn’t convince last year. And we have to persuade a majority of Scots of what we believe to be true. Independence is the best future for our country.”
The First Minister criticised Jeremy Corbyn during the speech, claiming she had started off hopeful of a relationship between Labour and the SNP but the chaos within his party had made that impossible.
“Whether on the economy, or Trident, or even the question of whether UK forces should take part in air strikes on Syria, Labour is a party divided and in disarray. In fact, the only thing clear about Labour is this: Labour is unreliable, unelectable and unable to stand up to the Tories.”
The First Minister also put a robust defence of her party’s record in government, citing the party’s rising votes as proof of support.
“In the general election in 2010, fewer than half a million people voted SNP. In the Scottish election a year later, our support grew to just over 900,000 votes. And in the general election this year, almost 1.5 million people chose our party.”
This, Sturgeon said, was “the real verdict on our Scottish government”.
This was Sturgeon’s first speech at the conference, her main speech is on Saturday afternoon.