Scotland’s lack of affordable housing has been criticised repeatedly by opposition politicians in recent years.

Labour leader, Richard Leonard, has made building more homes central to his policy platform. UK Labour promised in its 2017 general election manifesto that the party would build over a million new homes if elected.

The SNP questioned Labour’s record in government in Scotland, saying that Leonard’s suggestion that Labour built 61,000 homes for social rent was inaccurate.

“Labour built less than half the number of homes for social rent than they claim. SNP has delivered almost 52,600 homes for social rent, including 9,799 council homes.” SNP, Twitter

Ferret Fact Service looked into this claim and found it to be Mostly True.


The SNP’s contention that Scottish Labour overestimated the number of homes built under its time in power seems to be accurate.

There are a number of ways to measure affordable housing built in Scotland since the Scottish Parliament was formed.

Labour’s contention was stated in Richard Leonard’s speech at the Scottish Labour conference in March 2018.

He said: “When Scottish Labour was last in power we built 61,000 homes for rent in Scotland.”

When this line was restated in news articles promoting Labour’s latest housing pledge, it had become: “When Labour was last in power we built 61,000 homes for social rent in Scotland – we desperately need that kind of ambition again.”

Scottish statistics measure homes built for social rent from 2000 onwards, so we must assume that the claim is in reference to those.

House building for social rent is organised under the affordable housing supply programme (AHSP), which collects statistics for various categories of house building.

Looking specifically at social rent completions, from 2000-01 to 2006-07 Scottish Labour delivered 28,988 homes. In the period since the SNP assumed power, 52,558 homes have been delivered.

This works out as an average of 4,141 houses delivered per year under the Labour administration. Under the SNP, there has been 4,778 delivered on average each year.

However, these statistics do not take account of the first year of the Scottish Parliament.

Talking in total numbers of homes built by the SNP and Scottish Labour governments is not a very useful comparison, as the SNP have now been in power for 11 years to Scottish Labour’s seven. So a more relevant comparison would be the numbers built each year.

There is also an important difference between delivered and built. Many of the homes which are included in the totals for social rent are either rehabilitated existing buildings, or homes which are commissioned by the private sector then bought ‘off the shelf’ by the local council under Scottish Government funding. In 2016-17, 37 per cent of AHSP housing was ‘off the shelf’ or rehabilitated.

When new builds for social rent are taken in isolation, the figures become slightly different, with Scottish Labour providing an average of 3,617 homes per year, and the SNP 3,316 per year.

Ferret Fact Service has been unable to replicate the 61,000 figure provided by Scottish Labour in our analysis.

The number of new build social rent completions is only one measure of the health of the housing market.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly True

The SNP’s ‘fact check’ of Scottish Labour’s numbers on homes built for social rent is broadly accurate. Ferret Fact Service could not find any evidence of the 61,000 homes built under the Labour government, with a much lower figure according to official figures. However, the SNP use of total numbers is misleading, as it has been in power for 11 years, which is three more than the Labour coalition was in government. The number of social rent homes is only one measure of how much affordable housing is being provided, and does not fully reflect social housing provision.

Mostly True

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at or join our community forum.

Good journalism changes things

If, like us, you understand the power of a fearless, independent media, please consider supporting The Ferret.

The Ferret is a unique media project powered by people like you. We have no ads, and we're not owned by shadowy hedge funds or off-shore oligarchs. Instead we're a cooperative with places reserved for our writers and subscribers on the board.

We're avowedly non-partisan so we can treat everyone fairly. We don't publish click bait and we don't do favours for political parties or powerful vested interests. We do help to change things.

£9 per month

Or see your other subscription options.

Got a story idea?

Tell us what you'd like us to write about next and vote up the best ideas.

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!
We welcome strong opinions and diverse perspectives, but please be kind, considered and respectful when you post.