SOCIAL justice lawyers are to raise an action against the Scottish Parliament following the “astonishing” outcome of a committee looking at a bill to protect private renters in Scotland.

The Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill was terminated by the Local Government Committee at a private hearing on June 26 with no public statement given about the decision.

Campaigners claim the committee appears to have acted against the instructions of Parliament.

Now Govan Law Centre plans to raise judicial review proceedings against the Scottish Parliament and said it will serve papers this week if a resolution cannot be found.

Mike Dailly, solicitor advocate for Govan Law Centre, said: “Govan Law Centre is seeing many struggling families in lockdown.

“Rent arrears are increasing, as is the risk of homelessness for many vulnerable private renters.

“The Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill has never been so important.

“At the very least the parliament should debate how we can regulate rents in the private sector.

“The fact that a committee of a few MSPs can meet in private and decide to ditch a bill that has taken years of consultation and preparation to get this far, without even giving their reasons in public, is truly astonishing.

“The failure to adhere to the relevant rules and law appears to render the local government committee’s decision unlawful; and ultimately this is a matter that the court may have to rule on.

“There are many fundamental principles at stake including our open democracy and accountability, and the fact that families across Scotland are struggling to pay their rent.

“Govan Law Centre will not rest until private renters in Scotland get a fair deal.”

Glasgow Times:

Govan Law Centre has been working with politician Pauline McNeill to put forward a bill, dubbed the Mary Barbour Bill, to regulate rents in the private sector.

The MSP had cross-party support from 28 MSPs: 18 Scottish Labour, six Scottish Green Party, two Scottish LibDems, one Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and one independent.

The Bill would protect private sector tenants by introducing measures to limit rent increases and to increase the availability of information about rent levels.

Rent increases would be limited to the rate of inflation plus 1% or lower.

The private rented sector has trebled in a decade with private rents in this time rising at double the rate of inflation for many.

The average cost of privately renting a two-bedroom home increased in 15 out of 18 regions of Scotland between 2018 and 2019, with the highest increase in Greater Glasgow at 5.3% in one year.

Over the nine-year period from 2010 to 2019, average rents in the Greater Glasgow area have risen by a cumulative 38.3% rom £564 to £780.

Caroline Carson, a South Side mum-of-two, had given her backing to the bill having been left with what she describes as post-traumatic stress disorder from dealing with unscrupulous landlords while raising her two young children.

Caroline’s husband died when their children were aged eight and three, and she was left in the position of selling their successful family business and moving into private rented accommodation.

But yearly rent increases left her struggling to pay the bills.

She said: “Enough is enough. My children are 31 and 26 now, but young couples and single parents are still going through the same difficulties as I did 20 years ago and being left struggling with rent increases like I was.

“You end up feeling like you are in a pressure pot. It is a horrendous situation to be in.

“So shame on them that they just let this bill slip away. This is unacceptable and will do harm to other people in my situation.”

Govan Law Centre claims the committee appears to have acted contrary to the Parliament’s own standing orders and should not have terminated the Fair Rents Bill in a private session.

Standing orders say that any consideration of proposals for legislation have to be in public except when a private session is more appropriate for taking evidence.

The law centre’s letter to the Scottish Parliament also claims two of the committee members had a potential conflict of interest in relation to the Bill as they are private landlords, according to the Parliament’s register of interests.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body will consider the letter and respond in due course.”