A study conducted by Heriot-Watt University for homeless charity Crisis has revealed that between 2012 and 2017, the number of people sleeping rough in Scotland fell by 6%, whilst increasing by 120% in England and 63% in Wales.
Across the UK, 24,000 people are facing Christmas sleeping rough, in tents or on public transport. Around 12,300 people are currently sleeping rough on the streets and nearly 11,950 are spending their nights in cars, on trains, on buses or in tents.
Crisis says the number of people sleeping rough in England is more than double what UK Tory Government figures suggest. The charity said the study pulled together a range of sources, including data from support services that record people's experiences of sleeping rough which, according to the researchers, is not included in the UK Government's count.
Crisis Chief Executive Jon Sparkes said:
"Christmas should be a time of joy but for thousands of people sleeping rough, in tents or on public transport, it will be anything but. While most of the country will be celebrating and enjoying a family meal, those who are homeless will face a struggle just to stay safe and escape the cold.
"While the Scottish Government has announced a plan to eradicate homelessness, full implementation cannot come soon enough. Meanwhile, England and Wales must step up urgently with their own plans to end this crisis.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“We know that those sleeping outside are almost 17 times more likely to be victims of violence and 15 times more likely to be verbally abused. Like everyone else, I flinched when I saw footage from Hull last week of a man jumping onto a tent, which had two people sleeping inside of it.
“It is remarkable and heartening that, despite huge increases in England and Wales respectively, rough sleeping has decreased in Scotland by 6%. This clearly illustrates that, when the political will is there, positive change can be made.
“Of course, the SNP Government is seeking to go further and I welcomed the launch of its Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan on 27 November. The plan builds on the many changes in homelessness and affordable housing delivered by the SNP Government in recent years, including more than £3 billion to deliver 50,000 affordable new homes, including 35,000 for social rent and the £50 million pound Ending Homelessness Together Fund.
“I hope our neighbours in England and Wales will look at what we are doing here to help tackle their homelessness and implement policies that work towards its eradication.”