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.

"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.

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.

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