ON Wednesday, John Swinney was sworn in as First Minister, the third to take the post since the last election.

There’s been much speculation about whether he’ll merely continue the policy prospectus of his predecessor Humza Yousaf. His supporters are briefing the press he will provide 'stability'.

But what does that mean in practice? If stability just means maintaining the status quo, the multiple challenges facing ordinary Scots face will only intensify.

What’s needed is radical change and one of the most glaring areas this is evident is housing.

Just as the issue has fallen down the list of the SNP’s priorities over the past decade, the country’s housing crisis has worsened.

There are now around 130,000 people on social housing waiting lists at any given time.

And every 16 minutes, a household becomes homeless in Scotland. In one of the wealthiest countries on earth, that’s absolutely appalling.

In 2022-23, there were 39,000 homeless applications made to local authorities – a 10 per cent rise on the year before – and the number of households in temporary accommodation is 52 per cent higher than a decade ago.

Here in Inverclyde, a recent Homes for Scotland report found over 10,000 households had some form of housing need, whether that’s struggling with overcrowding, living in unfit properties or struggling to afford bills or requiring specialised support such as a stair lift.

Given the scale of these issues, you’d think it’d be all hands on deck at the Scottish Government.

Instead, ministers cut the affordable housing budget by £189 million, later partially backtracking but suggesting reinstating £80 million of that sum was an 'investment'.

Of this, £75 million has been cut from the capital fund used to build new council and social housing.

At a time when councils are declaring housing emergencies, investment in building more council housing should be a top priority, providing homes to those in need and reducing pressures elsewhere in the system.

Meanwhile, around 100,000 properties in Scotland are sitting empty at any time. That’s why the Scottish Government-appointed Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group recently recommended a 'large-scale national acquisition policy to buy private sector properties' as a point of urgency.

The Scottish Government must also unequivocally recommit to an urgent and robust rent controls system, long backed by Scottish Labour.

This has been included in the long-awaited Housing Bill, which the Social Justice and Social Security Committee of which I am a member will be scrutinising, but implementation could be a way off.

The end of the rent cap means many private tenants, who’ve already seen rents spiral by 14.3 per cent this year due to loopholes in the previous system, face further rises.

It’s time ministers stopped sitting on their hands.

They must commit to a renewed rent controls scheme for tenants. There must be a scaling up of compulsory purchase of existing unused stock. There must be a serious programme to deliver new council housing across the country.

After years of neglect, it’s time the housing emergency was treated with the urgency it deserves.