Ministers will consider ban on winter evictions

Ministers will consider banning winter evictions in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister was urged to look into a change in the law by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

He raised the issue of rough sleeping during First Minister's Questions at Holyrood as severe winter weather continued across Scotland.

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"Just last Thursday, one mile away from here, a man who had been sleeping rough died in the freezing cold," Mr Leonard said.

"He died sleeping on a discarded mattress, so it's clear urgent action is needed to end rough sleeping."

He continued: "Imagine facing a night on the streets in this weather.

"Imagine being evicted last night or tonight and facing the extreme cold.

"The campaign group Living Rent has proposed a change in the law to ban winter evictions, in France a version of this law runs from November 1 to March 31 each year and covers all tenants.

"It stops people being thrown onto the streets when temperatures drop, such a measure would simply save lives in Scotland."

Mr Leonard said his party was considering a ban as part of its housing reform policy, and called on Ms Sturgeon to do the same.

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The First Minister said: "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."

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.

Ms 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."

Ms Sturgeon said the government was circulating information on a range of organisations which are providing help to homeless people as the adverse weather continues.

She also confirmed the government will look into any recommendations to implement a system to gather and analyse data on rough sleeping.

Mr Leonard said a similar system to 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 - could be introduced north of the border.