THE drive to increase the supply of affordable homes will be supported by £826 million through the 2019-20 Scottish Budget proposals being put forward by the SNP Scottish Government.

The Scottish Parliament will determine the Scottish budget over the next few weeks, and proposed funding through the Affordable Housing Supply Programme will see a £70million increase on the current year.

Latest statistics show that, since 2007, more than 80,000 affordable homes have been delivered including 54,537 for social rent; 19,553 for affordable home ownership; and 6,014 for affordable rent – including the first new council houses built here in Clackmannanshire for over 25 years.

Housing is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s ambition for a fairer Scotland in which everyone has access to a safe, warm and affordable place to call home.

This increased budget forms part of the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution, with over £3billion committed which will deliver good quality, secure and affordable homes and create strong, sustainable communities.

The ambitious target is to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this Parliament, including 35,000 for social rent.

Scotland’s budget is severely constrained due to the austerity measures being imposed by the UK Government at Westminster: excluding the NHS funding uplift, all of which is being allocated in full to health and care, the remaining resource block grant is over £340m or 1.3 per cent lower in real terms in 2019-20 than in 2018-19.

To put the savage cuts to Scotland’s budget by the UK Government in even more stark terms, Tory austerity policies have seen Scotland’s funding slashed by almost £2bn over the past decade.

Nonetheless, the Scottish Budget in 2019-20 will see increased spending on the health and care services by almost £730m, invest more than £180m in raising attainment in schools, including £120m delivered directly to head teachers to spend on closing the attainment gap, with Clackmannanshire schools benefitting by around £3m.

The budget will also deliver the fairest income tax system in the UK – with 55 percent of income taxpayers in Scotland paying less than people earning the same income in the rest of the UK.

The SNP’s proposals will boost the economy by providing over £5bn of capital investment to grow and modernise Scotland’s infrastructure, including the creation of a Town Centre Fund, the expansion of elective care centres, and in City Region deals including the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal which will see over £90m invested in the local area over the term of the deal to drive inclusive growth.

There will also be significant investment in further education – which remains free to Scottish students under the SNP – through the investment of over £600m in Scotland’s colleges, and maintain investment at over £1bn in Scotland’s universities.

Tory austerity and the consequent reduction in Scotland’s block grant over the past decade do mean that Scotland’s public spending is under severe pressure.

However, even against this difficult backdrop, the proposals being offered by the Scottish Government would see funding to the NHS protected, and significant investment in housing, social care, childcare, education and infrastructure whilst making Scotland the fairest-taxed part of the UK.