Time for a winter break on evictions in Scotland

Homeless edinburgh

 #WinterBreak campaign is aimed at preventing street deaths caused by homelessness

Graham Martin's photo

1st March 2018 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Housing activists want a ban on winter evictions in Scotland.

Living Rent is running its #WinterBreak campaign, aimed at preventing street deaths caused by homelessness.

It has launched a petition asking the Scottish Government to implement a law similar to one in France, where evictions during the winter have been illegal since 1956.

They have been backed by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard – and this week, as the country was plunged into the worst period of wintry weather for years, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she will consider the move.

Living Rent, which campaigns for affordable housing, said in the preamble to its petition: “Shelter Scotland estimate that 5,000 people sleep rough on Scotland's streets throughout the year.

“The main route to homelessness is the loss of a tenancy. In Glasgow alone, 39 people died between May 2016 and March 2017. This risk is far higher in the winter, and this situation is completely avoidable.

“In France since December 1956, there has been a winter break to help protect residents from being thrown out into the cold from the 1 November until 31 March. This covers all tenants, people in temporary accommodation, and people living in any temporary shelters from being evicted or such temporary structures from being destroyed.”

The group said the winter break in France law helps reduce the risk of people having to sleep rough during the winter, and reduces winter deaths.

Its preamble added: “Help us win this for people in Scotland too.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to implement a similar law against evictions during the winter. We do not want anyone sleeping rough this winter and any more winter deaths in Scotland.”

Living Rent’s campaign was raised at First Minister’s Questions this week by Labour leader Leonard.

He urged Nicola Sturgeon to look at the CHAIN (Combined Homelessness and Information Network) initiative from London, which counts rough sleeping numbers and shares information among government agencies, local authorities and voluntary organisations to support rough sleepers.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The extreme weather has brought Scotland’s transport system grinding to a halt. However, it is not just our road and rail networks that are affected by this weather.

“Just last Thursday, one mile away from here, a man who had been sleeping rough died in the freezing cold. Urgent action is needed to eradicate rough sleeping.

“The campaign group Living Rent has proposed a change in the law to ban winter evictions. It stops people being thrown onto the streets when temperatures drop. Such a measure in Scotland would save lives.

“Labour will consider banning winter evictions as part of our housing reform policy – I hope the Scottish Government considers doing the same.”

The First Minister said she will consider taking up Living Rent’s demands.

She told the chamber at Holyrood: “I will commit my government to doing exactly as Richard Leonard has just said there, in considering that as a step we can take to help us tackle what we all accept is a very, very serious issue.”

This was walcomed by Living Rent. Spokesperson Craig Paterson told TFN: "Living Rent welcomes the discussion that took place in parliament around our winter break campaign and we look forward to invitations from the political parties to meet and discuss the proposals. We encourage MSP's from all parties to look out their windows right now and see the reason why Scotland needs a #WinterBreak."

The Scottish Government has set up a homelessness and rough sleeping action group to look at measures needed to eradicate rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation in Scotland.

Sturgeon added: “These will be the kinds of things the action group is looking at and may well form part of the recommendations they put forward, and I give a commitment today that we will take forward the recommendations of that action group when they come forward in the spring.”