Nicola Sturgeon: what did Scotland First Minister say about rent freezes in her programme of parliament 2022?
The First Minister of Scotland was under pressure to make decision to help with the cost of living as she set out the Government’s programme for parliament
The First Minister addressed the parliament and laid out the programme of government - the Scottish Government’s legislative plans for the next year.
Topics such as the cost of living were high on the agenda, however, prominent decisions were also made in transport and health.
Here’s everything that Nicola Sturgeon announced in parliament.
What was announced in the Scottish Parliament?
The First Minister announced that rents of private and social housing tenants will be frozen until at least March 2023, to aid in the cost of living crisis.
The legislation is set to be backdated to Tuesday 6 September, meaning the new rent freeze was effective immediately from the point Ms Sturgeon announced it.
The rent freeze legislation has been introduced using emergency legislation, which was last used in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Additionally, landlords will not be able to evict tenants during winter.
Rail fare freeze
Along with the rent freeze, Ms Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government will freeze the price of all Scotrail tickets until next March.
Scotrail has recently come into public ownership in Scotland, with the government using its powers to pause any planned price increases.
Child payment uplift
Families will also benefit from a rise in the Scottish Child Payment benefit.
This payment will rise from £20 to £25 per week from November.
Additionally, the threshold for receiving the payment has changed to allow families with children under the age of 16 now able to be eligible.
Abolition of not proven verdict
The ‘not proven’ verdict is specific to Scottish law, which is the equivalent of an acquittal during a criminal trial.
The verdict has been controversial for many reasons, including the ambiguity of what the actual meaning of the verdict is. It has also been criticised for providing additional protection to accused, as it gives juries an option to not convict if there is any doubt in their verdict.
The Scottish Government will make changes to the Criminal Justice Bill, due to be introduced in the next year, which will scrap the verdict.
Ms Sturgeon also announced the Scottish Government’s intention to introduce a new piece of legislation which would allow local councils to implement a tourist tax.
A tourist tax is a charge placed on visitors to a specific place, specifically those in which has a high tourist population.
Cities across Europe, including Barcelona, Berlin and Amsterdam, have implemented the tax in the past few years.
Edinburgh City Council, which already sees a high number of tourists come to the capital during major events such as the Fringe Festival and New Year, has already expressed an interest in introducing the levy.
The First Minister gave an update on the SNP’s plans to legislate the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill.
The government will look to introduce the bill in the next year, if the UK Supreme Court permits it to do so.
As a result of ongoing legal proceedings, Ms Sturgeon was unable to go into further detail.
The Scottish and UK Governments will present their arguments to the Supreme Court on October 11 and 12, with the Scottish Government hoping to fight for the legal right to hold the vote.
What has been the reaction to the announcement?
Private lettings agents and landlords have criticised the Scottish Government for using the rent freeze policy to “grab headlines”.
Brian Gilmour, of independent letting agent Indigo Square, said: “For me it is just a headline-grabbing statement that is getting private landlords and social landlords to pay for the Government to look good.
Mr Gilmour is among critics who have said that the freeze stops landlords from passing on rising mortgage rates and insurance rates to their tenants.
He added: “What about the private landlord who is a retiree and this is part of their pension planning?
“What is happening to them about their increasing costs they can’t pass on? They’re not some international conglomerate who can absorb the costs.”
The Scottish Property Federation also warned the move could “derail efforts to improve the supply of new, purpose-built homes for rent”.
However the Scottish Trades Union Congress welcomed the freeze.
Roz Foyer, general secretary of the congress, said: “The Scottish Government is to be commended for freezing rents. If implemented correctly – and we are pressing for further answers – this will help thousands of households across Scotland when they need it most.”
Peter Kelly, from the charity Poverty Alliance, added that the move would “help tenants across the country”.
Meanwhile, the Law Society of Scotland has also said it is “deeply concerned” over the scrapping of the ‘not proven’ verdict, saying that it could lead to miscarriages of justice.