SCOTLAND is in the midst of a housing crisis. The challenges within the housing market are often ignored in political debate.

This is a big problem. Big problems like these require big thinking on the part of our elected representatives. Sadly, big thinking is not something that is often associated with the current Scottish Government.

In fact, their housing policy has actually taken us backwards. Since the nationalists first came into office in 2007, the number of new houses that have been built each year has fallen by 30 per cent and the rate of home ownership has also fallen.

The major cause of Scotland's housing crisis is a lack of supply of houses. In most other cases where demand outstrips supply, businesses would set about increasing supply but when it comes to housing, government intervention in the form of the planning system has stopped this from happening.

In our manifesto, we set out our ambition to build 100,000 new homes over the course of a parliament but there are a few changes to the system that would need to be made to allow this to happen.

As I have mentioned many times in this column, the Scottish Conservatives are strong defenders of local democracy and we are not suggesting any changes that would undermine our local authorities and communities.

In fact, we are supportive of giving more powers to councils over town development if necessary.

What we want to see is the Scottish Government taking a more proactive role in providing a strategic direction for housing that engages local communities in the decision-making process and ensures that their concerns are addressed.

New developments can be genuinely attractive and can bring local communities with them. New villages like Chapelton of Elsick just outside Aberdeen where landowners, developers and the council came together to design a new community have been a great success.

This collaborative approach can go a long way to overcome the genuine fears that some people have about new large-scale developments. A new generation of new towns and villages would help to alleviate the housing crisis.

The main concerns that most people have about new developments are often related to the ability for local infrastructure to cope with significant increases in the local population.

They want to know that their roads will not clog up, that their child will still get a place at the local school and that they will be able to get a doctor's appointment at the local surgery.

To address this, we would like to see a new national Housing and Infrastructure Agency tasked with the delivery of basic infrastructure around which new houses can be built.

Nothing is more important than having a roof over your head but getting a foot on the housing ladder is not getting any easier.

We now have a real opportunity to address this serious issue and make Scotland a better place to live. The Scottish Conservatives will be working to drive this innovative agenda forward.