A petition has been launched to push the Scottish Government to adopt a Bill capping rent prices after it was dropped by a Holyrood committee.
The Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill was introduced by Labour MSP Pauline McNeill earlier this year and if passed it would cap rent increases for private sector tenants.
However, the Local Government and Communities Committee dropped the legislation last week, blaming a heavy workload brought on by the coronavirus pandemic leading to a lack of time.
The Members’ Bill will now most likely not be debated before next year’s election, unless it is adopted by the Scottish Government.
Ms McNeill, her party’s housing spokeswoman, has now launched a petition to push for the Scottish Government to take forward the Bill itself, and claims that SNP and Conservative MSPs worked together to drop the legislation from consideration.
She said: “It is hugely disappointing that the SNP has lined up with the Tories to block the Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill from progressing further.
“But Nicola Sturgeon has another chance to show that she is on the side of hard-pressed renters. We are calling on the Scottish Government to adopt the Bill, as it has done with other legislation proposed by Labour MSPs in the past, and ensure that it goes forward for debate.”
Mike Dailly, a solicitor advocate at the Govan Law Centre, helped to draft the legislation with Ms McNeill, which he says took two years to develop and had the support of 28 MSPs across four parties when it was introduced.
He added: “Yet it is understood that MSPs on a committee decided in private session to terminate it without any public explanation.
“The year-on-year escalation of private rent increases is unsustainable, especially in a Covid-19 world where tens of thousands of Scots have seen their incomes drop, with redundancy and unemployment looming for all too many.
“Scotland needs to talk about private rent affordability. Our parliament needs to act to give vulnerable tenants some basic legal protection.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government has always prioritised housing and I am proud that we have now delivered over 91,000 affordable homes since 2007, with more than 63,000 for social rent.
“Our Private Tenancies Act introduced the most significant change in private renting for 30 years alongside a range of measures to help tackle high rents.
“In addition, we have moved to protect renters from eviction during the pandemic.
“ Consideration and timetabling of the scrutiny of Bills is for Parliament to decide.
“As announced in April, the Scottish Government has also had to drop a number of Government Bills due to the impact of the pandemic.”
SNP MSP George Adam said: “Coronavirus has had an enormous impact on everything in society and that includes parliamentary time.
“Many proposed Bills, further progressed than this one, have had to be delayed or paused as Parliament rightly focuses on the urgent need to respond to the health and economic crisis.
“There are only seven months of the parliamentary session before the next election, during which committees will have a heavy workload including Covid-related work, the budget and existing legislation.
“It is simply not possible for committees to do everything at once and it is disingenuous of Labour to claim otherwise.”