Nicola Sturgeon has been asked to guarantee that a ban on homeless people being housed in unsuitable accommodation will be in place at the start of next year.

The ban was announced in May this year but implementation has been delayed due to an exemption to allow the numbers of people housed in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pauline McNeill, Glasgow Labour MSP, asked the First Minister why it was delayed and when it would be implemented.

She said it was having a negative effect on people’s health and metal wellbeing.

Ms McNeill said: “The situation affects their sense of safety and their ability to maintain a normal life, including cooking for themselves and accessing laundry facilities, which makes life very difficult. We whole-heartedly welcomed the decision to extend the seven-day restriction on time spent in unsuitable accommodation to all people to ensure that all homeless people are treated equally.

Ms McNeill added: “I would like a guarantee—or as firm a commitment as she can give—that that will be done as soon as practically possible after January, and that the timetable will not slip unless there is a good reason for that.”

The First Minister told the MSP she was committed to extending the ban before the end the parliament term, in May next year.

She said however that just now the temporary exemptions were still needed which have taken people of the streets during the pandemic.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are extending those exemptions until the end of January, given the on-going challenges that we still face. We recognise the challenges that local authorities are facing as a result of the pandemic and that supplies of suitable temporary accommodation have been limited due to restrictions on the turnover of void properties as a result of lockdown. The decision was reached with the support of councils, which remain focused on ensuring that people have somewhere safe and warm to live.”

When asked for a guarantee she responded: “I agree 100 per cent with Pauline McNeill that, in normal times, permanent settled accommodation is always better than B and B and temporary accommodation. In the pandemic situation, because of some of the wider factors that we have had to deal with, access to B and B and temporary accommodation has often been the difference between someone being in accommodation and their being on the streets and not safe.”

She said that hopefully by January the situation will be different and

Ms Sturgeon added: “In normal times, settled accommodation is always the best, and that is what we continue to aim for.

Around 300 people were moved into hotels mainly in the city centre in March this year when lockdown was announced.

The council has since said it has been working to find suitable homes for those it has a statutory duty towards.

While removing so many people from street homelessness during the pandemic has been seen by many as a perfect opportunity to end rough sleeping it has been warned that the economic effect of coronavirus could lead to a new wave of homelessness.

At a previous meeting of the Scottish Government homelessness and rough sleeping action group (HARSAG) the possibility of an increase in homeless people and not enough properties available to cope.

It was also concerned that should there be a second or third wave or coronavirus there may not be the same level of financial support from governments available to provide emergency services.