A national debate on housing is needed amid a crisis not seen since the Second World War, the Scottish Tories have said.
The party used a debate at Holyrood to call for urgent action to increase the number of homes in Scotland and better leadership on the issue from the Scottish Government.
The Tories have put forward plans aimed at addressing the shortage, including the construction of a new generation of new towns, the establishment of a housing and infrastructure agency and a dedicated cabinet secretary for housing.
Scottish Conservative communities spokesman Adam Tomkins told MSPs: “Scotland faces a housing crisis on a scale not seen since the Second World War. We urgently need to talk about this and to act.
“Housing alongside health and education should be right at the top of the Scottish political agenda.”
He continued: “The Scottish Government cannot shoulder the blame entirely for this crisis, the economic downturn has its part to play but it is the Scottish Government’s responsibility to create the right conditions for improving housing outcomes and we haven’t seen anything like the leadership on this issues that we need.”
Mr Tomkins added: “Our purpose today is not to seek to give the government a bloody nose, to inflict upon it another parliamentary defeat which can then proceed to ignore but to start a national debate which, I hope, politicians in all parties will want to engage in.”
Communities Secretary Angela Constance highlighted research from the National Audit Office which said a rise in homelessness was likely to have been driven by UK Government welfare reforms.
She asked: “Will Ruth Davidson’s new towns be suitable for all those families who have faced the brunt of harsh and punitive welfare cuts?”
Ms Constance added: “You have to recognise the results of the toxic Tory legacy of removing half a million houses in Scotland for social rent.
“What has that done to the life chances and the prospects of young people struggling today to get on the housing ladder or to be able to get a home that they can afford to rent?
“We won’t be taking any lectures this afternoon or at any other time on housing from the Conservatives.”
Labour’s Pauline McNeill said a “step-change” was now required, and called for social housing to be a major infrastructure priority.
“We agree that there is a chronic shortage of housing supply, and it is the biggest challenge,” she said.
She added: “It is for that reason we believe that its social house building that should be the next national project, and that it should follow on the scale of the Queensferry Crossing now that it has been completed,” she said.
Green MSP Andy Wightman said the debate had become highly politicised.
“We stand ready to work with all parties in the chamber to pursue radical new measures through planning, land acquisition, fiscal and other policies to deliver a very different housing future for the people of Scotland,” he said.
Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “This chamber is invested with the powers to answer much of this challenge, we lack only the political will with which to do so, but today’s debate is a start.
“We’re talking about a fundamental redesign in our approach to housing and its development in this country.”