There is a housing crisis afoot in many areas of Scotland – across all sectors and regions. But it is perhaps students who are feeling this crisis bite the worst of all.
In Scotland, student rents have increased by 34% in the past three years - faster than in any other part of the UK.
There has also been a growing trend of students being forced into homelessness, with 12% of current students at college and university experiencing homelessness at some point during their studies.
By the end of 2021, the average rent across Scotland was £820 per calendar month for a two-bed property. In Edinburgh and Glasgow, however, rents were even higher, at £1,111 and £962 respectively for two-bed flats.
Before the academic year started for 2021/22, Glasgow’s rental market was in crisis as students failed to find available flats. Flats that did become available saw multiple tenants attempting to outbid each other, or letting agents suggesting students pay 6 months’ rent up front to increase their chances of securing a flat.
Given such issues with rental prices and availability, it is not surprising that accommodation is becoming a major issue for Scottish students.
As Shadow Minister for Further Education, Higher Education, Youth Employment and Training, I recognise the importance that good quality, affordable housing has on a student’s performance when learning. When a student lives in a place they feel safe and is affordable it will improve their productivity and, ultimately, their educational attainment.
But throughout this growing period of concern, the SNP are failing to step up and provide the support that students need – while this rental crisis continues to grow.
The SNP often boast about the rising number of school-leavers attending universities. But with funding cuts and increasing living costs, the SNP are unable to guarantee a worthwhile experience for prospective students – something confirmed by figures that show one third of students consider dropping out of university due to financial difficulties.
It is time that the SNP stopped focusing on their independence crusade, and started giving our students access to the housing they need to make their time at university worthwhile.
The SNP have failed to deliver on their affordable housing promises – with the SNP Government missing their target of building 50,000 affordable homes over the previous parliamentary session. And this is the same government that is presiding over further real-terms cuts to higher education this year.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak about this issue at the student housing rally hosted by NUS Scotland on the 23rd March outside the Scottish Parliament. This will give me the opportunity to announce, loud and clear, that the SNP needs to do more to support our students on this issue.
Going forward, I will remain committed to holding the SNP accountable for their failure to tackle this issue, to ensure they deliver the real change that students need in order to make the most of their student experience.