NICOLA Sturgeon has confirmed that a rent freeze will be introduced in Scotland, effective from today.

The First Minister presented her Programme for Government to Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon, setting out a range of measures to help the public as soaring costs hammer their bank accounts.

Speaking about the “rapidly escalating crisis” over living costs, the First Minister insisted action was needed on a “scale similar to the Covid response”.

While she said the Scottish Government could not act on skyrocketing energy bills, the First Minister promised action on housing from Holyrood ministers.

Sturgeon confirmed that a rent freeze will apply to both the private and social sectors through emergency legislation, with the new law aiming to give people security about the roof over their heads during the winter.

In addition, a ban to evictions will be in place over the winter.

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What did Nicola Sturgeon say about the rent freeze?

"In what is perhaps the most significant announcement of the day, I can confirm that we will take immediate action to protect tenants in the private and social rented sectors," she told MSPs.

"I can confirm that we will shortly introduce emergency legislation to parliament. The purpose of the emergency law will be two-fold.

"Firstly, it will aim to give people security about the roof over their heads this winter, with a moratorium on evictions.

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"Secondly, the legislation will include measures to deliver a rent freeze. The Scottish Government doesn't have the power to stop your energy bills soaring, but we can and will take action to ensure that your rent does not rise."

"By definition, these are temporary measures, but they will provide much-needed security for many during what will be a difficult winter. We envisage that both measures will remain in place until at least the end of March 2023."

She added: "Crucially, I can confirm that we will time the emergency legislation to ensure - subject, of course, to the agreement of parliament - that the practical effect of this statement is that rents are frozen from today."

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@scotnational HUGE news as Nicola Sturgeon announces a rent freeze for tenants in Scotland. What do you think of this policy? #indyref2 #toriesout #snp ♬ original sound - The National

Other measures on housing will be taken, the SNP chief confirmed in the Chamber.

A Housing Bill will be introduced in the coming year to improve affordability for the longer term, provide new and strengthened rights for tenants, and implement key policies on short-term lets and the prevention of homelessness.

Households will be given support to install energy efficiency measures through the Warmer Homes Scotland programme in order to lower energy costs, reduce energy use and deliver our climate change obligations.

And a £25 million Clyde mission decarbonisation fund will be launched to support zero emission heat projects and communal heating systems along the length of the Clyde.

What is the political reaction so far?

The Living Rent tenants union secretary Meg Bishop described the move as a "huge step in the right direction".

"The devil will be in the detail and it is important that this rent freeze applies across the board, from purpose built student accommodation to social housing, from rent increases starting today to rent notifications issued two months ago," she said.

"While we are hugely relieved by this, we also know that rents are already too high and have increased by over 60% in Scottish cities in the last 10 years. This rent freeze is a great emergency response, and will need to stay in place until the Scottish Government brings in proper rent controls that push rents down.

"Make no mistake, this would not have been possible without years of organising by members of Living Rent, Scotland’s tenants union."

The National: Arianne Burgess, right.Arianne Burgess, right. (Image: PA)

Commenting after the announcement, the Scottish Greens housing spokesperson Ariane Burgess MSP said that improving tenants' rights was "at the heart" of the party's co-operation deal with the SNP.

“With soaring inflation, skyrocketing bills and increasing rents, these are desperate times for tenants all across Scotland," she said.

“We are facing the biggest social emergency for decades. The rent freeze and eviction ban that the First Minister announced will provide vital stability and support for tenants across Scotland at a time when many are suffering. It is one of the steps we are taking, in partnership with the Scottish Government, to mitigate the damage being done by Downing Street and the energy companies.”

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Meanwhile, the Scottish Trades Union Congress welcomed the freeze, with general secretary Roz Foyer saying announcements showed that the “powers of our Parliament can bring positive change”.

Foyer insisted: “The Scottish Government is to be commended for freezing rents. If implemented correctly – and we are pressing for further answers – this will help thousands of households across Scotland when they need it most.”

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, also said that the measure would “help tenants across the country”.

But Kelly was also adamant more could be done, noting: “The First Minister said that it is not a lack of political will that prevents us from further action to help people with this cost crisis – it is a lack of money.

“So, the upcoming emergency budget review must focus on getting additional cash into the pockets of people on low incomes.”

The Scottish Conservatives did not immediately welcome the rent freeze proposal, with chief whip Stephen Kerr suggesting it could make finding accommodation harder for students.

"The next generation of students will be looking for student accommodation in a shrinking rental market - as if shortages weren't bad enough," he tweeted shortly after the speech. 

"Did the SNP put any thought in to how landlords would react to measures that make it more difficult to rent out properties?"

What else did the First Minister announce?

ScotRail fares will be frozen until at least March 2023, the First Minister confirmed.

The minimum threshold at which bank arrestments can be made will be raised and regulations will be introduced to give greater protection to those repaying debts through the Debt Arrangement Scheme.

A new Bankruptcy and Diligence Bill will seek to improve the lives of those struggling with debt.

The Scottish Child Payment

From November 14, the Scottish Child Payment will increase to £25 per week per child.

The payment will also open on that date to applications for children up to age 16.

Two Best Start Grants – the early learning and school age payments – will now be awarded automatically to families in receipt of the Scottish child payment without the need for a further application.