THERE are fears that rent controls could be pushed into the next parliamentary term after a Sunday National investigation found that almost a fifth of MSPs are landlords.

Campaigners say the stark figures show that the density of parliamentarians who are involved in the rental property market is a “serious impediment” on their ability to act in the interests of tenants.

Rent controls, and other policies supporting tenants rights – such as creating a new regulator to enforce them – form part of the SNP-Green co-operation agreement.

A draft of a “New Deal for Tenants” was released for consultation in December and will close in April this year. However, with a previous Fair Rents Bill, tabled by Labour MSP Pauline McNeill, falling at the dissolution of the last parliament, and with licensing for short-term lets not being brought in until 2024, tenants rights campaigners are concerned the same might happen again.

READ MORE: Who are the 23 MSP landlords who make money from rented property?

The Sunday National analysed each MSP’s register of interest, which are publicly available on the Scottish Parliament website, and discovered that out of 129 MSPs, there are 23 (17.9%) who currently rent out property or have investments in letting firms.

The Scottish Tories had the highest percentage of MSPs who are also landlords in their cohort; nine out of 31 (29%). This includes multi-millionaires Alexander Burnett and Donald Cameron, who each own a sprawling estate in the north of Scotland.

The SNP has eight landlords out of 64 MSPs (12.5%), Scottish Labour five out of 22 (22%), the Lib Dems one out of four (25%), and the Scottish Greens have no landlord parliamentarians.

Overall, out of 129 MSPs, there are 23 (17.9%) who currently rent out property or have investments in letting firms.

Megan Bishop (below), secretary of tenant union Living Rent, said she wasn’t surprised by the figures and that they represented a “damning indictment of the vested interests that dominate decision-making around housing”.

The National: Megan Bishop, Secretary of Living rent.

She said: “Landlords’ interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of tenants. There is a real danger that the 17.9% of MSPs will seek to delay or remove the bill entirely by pushing the bill into the next election cycle, seriously harming the prospect of rent controls for tenants. We as renters don’t have the luxury of time when rents are already too high and driving us into poverty.”

READ MORE: 'Dire outlook' for Scottish tenants as most Scots priced out of room rentals

Bishop also raised concerns that the register of interests may not give the full picture, as some MSPs could benefit in other ways, such as family members who are landlords.

She added: “This will leave many tenants afraid that their interests will be overshadowed by MSP’s personal situation.

“To win rent controls, or any other policies that seek to rebalance the scales in favour tenants, we need to be louder than the voices in Holyrood looking after their own pockets.”

There are an estimated 340,000 households in Scotland which are privately rented, and with costs on the increase, Bishop says the need for controls is more desperate.

She said: “Rents in Glasgow and Edinburgh have sky-rocketed over the last decade, increasing on average by over 40 percent to over £750 for a one bed property since 2010.

“Our housing system is broken. We can’t afford to wait longer for it to be fixed.”

Tenants’ Rights Minister Patrick Harvie said that the new deal for tenants will deliver a “fairer rented sector”, with limitations on evictions, rent controls and greater flexibility on home decorations and keeping pets.

READ MORE: Tenants' voices 'at the heart' of Scottish Government's rent control planning

He said: “These changes will significantly improve the lives of Scotland’s tenants.

“The parliamentary debate on the new deal for tenants just before Christmas showed there was a lot of common ground in seeking to improve the quality, fairness and affordability of renting. “So I look forward to continuing to work constructively both within Parliament and in communities to deliver these proposals.”

Ariane Burgess MSP, Scottish Greens housing spokesperson and chair of the housing committee, said that tenants rights in Scotland have been falling behind our neighbours in Europe for “decades”.

The National: Ariane Burgess, Scottish Greens MSPAriane Burgess, Scottish Greens MSP

She said: “I’ve got no doubt that to some extent that is because of the influence of landlords in parliament. I’m delighted that now, with Greens in government, we’re going to deliver a new deal for tenants that will include a national system of rent controls.”

The Sunday National asked the SNP if the number of MSPs who are landlords would impact on the policy in the co-operation agreement and if they are committed to rent controls.

There are two government ministers; Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Transport Michael Matheson, and Minister for Business Ivan McKee, who rent out properties in Scotland.

An SNP spokesperson said: “MSPs have a duty to be transparent about their outside financial interests. SNP members follow the proper process set out by the Scottish Parliament’s Register of Interests.”

READ MORE: Rental prices in Scotland rise in all but one area of the country

When we approached the LibDems, as leader Alex Cole-Hamilton sublets a room in his Edinburgh flat on Airbnb, housing spokesperson Paul McGarry, an anti-homeless campaigner and not an MSP, said that the party are campaigning for “significant” changes for renters.

He said: “These include increasing house building across the UK with a focus on re-establishing social rent as a long-term option, insulating all Britain’s homes by 2030 and introducing new, effective and proportionate regulation for short-term holiday lets such as Airbnb, which have taken many homes out of the private rental market.”

Scottish Labour did not respond to our requests for comment. In their 2021 manifesto, the party promised to attempt to pass the Fair Rents bill again and “reform the private rented sector and rebalance the relationship between tenants and landlords”. Deputy leader Jackie Baillie is the owner of a property in Portugal which nets her around £3500 and £5200 per year on top of her MSP salary.

The Scottish Tory’s also refused to respond for comment. In their 2021 manifesto, the party stated they would build 40,000 homes in the social rented sector. There is no mention of rent controls or tenants rights.