NUS Scotland is pleased that the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government for the next year will benefits students who use the train to get to class and who rent in the private rental sector, but urges the government to go further in increasing the rights of students in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) and by increasing student financial support for all.
The Programme for Government makes some progress on a number of NUS Scotland’s main asks for 2023/24, including cheaper public transport for all students and apprentices, rent controls, and an increase in student financial support.
NUS Scotland says students will be waiting with bated breath for the details of each of these policy commitments, particularly making clear that the new Housing Bill – which includes rent controls and increased rights for renters – must also apply to PBSA.
It is estimated that a quarter of students rent in PBSA. However, currently, PBSA is excluded from the rent cap and many policies intended to protect renters' rights. NUS Scotland is clear that this is a key contributor to the fact that 12% of students have experienced homelessness; many of them simply cannot afford the rent on student properties and are often excluded from renting in the private rental sector.
Commenting, NUS Scotland President, Ellie Gomersall, said:
“This Programme for Government includes many positive steps forward for students, but we urgently need to see more detail and radical change to stop students from drowning in the cost-of-living crisis.
“We again welcome the scrapping of peak time rail fares, especially as a fifth of students have missed class because of the cost of public transport, and hope to see the policy extended after the end of the trial period.
“We are also delighted with the Government’s announcement that part-time and flexible students will receive increased parity in financial support when compared to full-time students. However, when over half of students have skipped meals because they cannot afford to eat, we are clear that the Government must go further in helping students in the cost-of-living crisis. We call on the government to follow through on their commitment to increase student financial support in line with the Real Living Wage, and to do so sooner rather than later.
“We strongly welcome the introduction of long-term rent controls and increased rights for renters, as this will benefit the thousands of students renting in the private rental sector. However, we anxiously await detail on this bill - particularly whether these rent controls and increased rights will also be applied to the PBSA sector, in which rent increases have dramatically outstripped both inflation and student support for many years now, and in which students have significantly less rights than other renters. With 12% of all students having experienced homelessness, we cannot afford for PBSA to be excluded from rent control regulation.”