Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 16:45 UK

Salmond in bid to boost housing

Alex Salmond
Mr Salmond said he would not wait for conditions to get worse

First Minister Alex Salmond has announced plans to increase the budget for building affordable homes.

He unveiled the plans ahead of giving the Donald Dewar lecture at the Edinburgh Book Festival on how Scotland will address global challenges.

Mr Salmond said that up to 100m could be brought forward to be spent this year and next rather than 2010-11.

The Labour Party branded the move a U-turn and said it had consistently called for these "cuts" to be reversed.

Housing Associations had lobbied the government to release money to deal with the crisis in house building.

Mr Salmond said that about 60m would come from the Affordable Housing Investment Programme.

A further 40m may be brought forward from local authorities.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said the move would give the construction industry and the affordable housing sector a boost.

However, they said it would not solve the problems of either.

We will not simply sit back and wait for conditions to get better
Alex Salmond

Mr Salmond said: "The global economic downturn is affecting economies across the world, and clearly Scotland cannot be fully insulated from its effects.

"But there are two reasons why the economic outlook for Scotland is positive.

"First, the Scottish economy continues to show encouraging signs of resilience. Second, Scotland has a Government that, despite its limited economic powers, will take decisive action to strengthen our performance and prospects.

"We will not simply sit back and wait for conditions to get better."

But Labour enterprise spokeswoman Elaine Murray said: "Alex Salmond has perhaps recognised the folly of his proposal to cut housing association budgets by 90m, but nobody should be fooled that this announcement means extra funding.

"Labour has consistently called for these cuts to be reversed. The SNP's U-turn after sustained pressure is a first step, but it does not go far enough.

"House builders are reporting that 15,000 workers have already been laid off as a result of the credit crunch. We need imaginative solutions to help the industry in these difficult times."

The full programme outlined in the Donald Dewar lecture included plans for new criteria for housing associations to buy unsold stock or land.

The government wants to speed up the investment of 180m already committed from European funds to stimulate the Scottish economy.

A review of the system of developer contributions is to be postponed to avoid placing new burdens on development.

And Mr Salmond said he hoped to reap the benefits of the Homecoming events, designed to bring Scots from across the world back to the country for celebrations in 2009.

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