LEADING Scottish politicians are to warn the Home Office it is “gambling with the future of the asylum dispersal scheme”, unless it acts urgently to address problems with new decade-long contracts on asylum housing in Glasgow.

The alarm bells will be sounded by SNP MPs at Westminster on Wednesday. They have called a debate to discuss asylum housing contracts – worth more than £4 billion across the UK over 10 years and due to be signed imminently in dispersal areas including Glasgow, the only dispersal city in Scotland. Critics claim the new contracts are fatally flawed.

Last month, 14 leaders from councils across the UK including Yorkshire, Newcastle and Sunderland wrote “unprecedented” en masse letters to raise serious concerns about accommodation contracts, to be delivered by multinationals including Serco – the provider in Glasgow – G4S and Clearsprings.

Now it has emerged that Serco plans to use Glasgow hotels as “contingency measures” when unable to source suitable flats. Glasgow City Council has warned the Home Office that it will ask it to halt dispersal to the city rather than house people in inappropriate accommodation.

Concerns were raised last time hotels were used as asylum accommodation in the city, with multiple vulnerable people forced to share rooms for weeks and months on end in low-quality accommodation with no cooking or washing facilities.

The city council is understood to be taken aback by the Home Office response, which was to threaten to compel it to continue to house asylum seekers under “an outdated and untested clause” in the Immigration Act, regardless of its welfare concerns.

Stuart McDonald MP, SNP spokesman for immigration, said it was an “outrageous” way for the Home Office to treat a “welcoming city that has done more than its fair share”.

He said it was imperative that the Home Office take seriously the urgent need for local authorities to have proper resources – allowing them to provide the additional services needed such as language support and healthcare, and to have oversight of new contracts, ensuring they are able to make decisions about how to organise dispersal in the city.

McDonald, who will speak in this week’s debate, said problems caused over the summer – when housing provider Serco announced it would evict asylum seekers whose claims had been refused by changing the locks on their doors – highlighted the failure of the current system. The evictions have been paused, with court dates in November for asylum seekers – represented by the Govan Law Centre – challenging them announced last week.

“Slum” housing standards in Glasgow and elsewhere have been consistently highlighted by campaigners in recent years. Serco insists it provides “decent housing” in line with its contractual obligations.

McDonald told the Sunday National: “The Compass [current] contracts have been beset with problems. They may have saved the Home Office a bit of cash but it simply shunted the responsibility on the local authorities without giving them additional resources or any oversights. The system needs fundamental changes.

“Glasgow has more than done its fair share. It’s been incredibly welcoming. To treat it like this is just disgraceful. It is wholly outrageous.

“The Home Office is seriously gambling on the future of dispersal contracts. If we go down this path there is a risk that local authorities simply aren’t able to cope. That’s a situation that nobody wants.” Paul Sweeney, Labour MP for Glasgow North, who has also been outspoken about Home Office failures, added: “This speaks to the absurdity of the whole system. There has been a significant lack of consultation on what is needed from these contracts. I would say that it’s a huge risk to go ahead without that. It’s self-defeating.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council confirmed it was discussing the situation with local authorities across the UK, as well as others in Scotland. Despite attempts by the Home Office to persuade other Scottish councils to sign up for dispersal, they have been reluctant to do so due to resourcing issues.

“Glasgow has significant experience, as a city and a community, of welcoming refugees,” added the spokesman. “We believe the city has benefited from that experience, just as those seeking asylum have. Clearly, though, dispersal has to be properly resourced if it is to work – for refugees and for communities, both now and in years to come. That is obviously a matter of concern.”

Gary Christie, the Scottish Refugee Council’s head of policy and communications, claimed the dispersal scheme had brought “immense” positive benefits to the city. “However it is unfair and unreasonable of the Home Office to expect towns and cities that have taken responsibility to welcome and integrate people seeking asylum for a generation, as Glasgow and many others in England and Wales have, and not give them proper resources and control,” he added. “This is not the way for the Home Office to run such a crucial service.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Asylum seekers, many of whom have endured great hardship and are particularly vulnerable, should be treated with dignity and respect at all stages of the asylum process. Provision of safe and secure accommodation is a key part of that process.

“The Home Office must properly fund all local authorities for participation in asylum dispersal, and councils in Scotland must not be treated differently from those in England.”

A Home Office spokesman said it had scheduled ministerial meetings with local authorities to address the issue. He added: “The Home Office takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers and the local communities in which they live extremely seriously.

“We are in regular contact with local partners, including Glasgow City Council, to understand and address any concerns that they may have.”

Jenni Halliday, Serco housing contract director, said: “We are providing decent accommodation for the asylum seekers in our care that meets all the required standards and which is some of the most heavily inspected housing in the country.” Housing those refused by the UK Government put “pressure” on the organisation, she added.