Last week, the Scottish Government defeated a motion by Labour to declare a housing emergency across Scotland. It follows declarations made by Argyll and Bute, the City of Edinburgh and Glasgow City councils of housing emergencies in their local areas.

The Conservatives had made a similar call back in January of the then Housing Minister, Shona Robison, on the grounds that Scotland has a homelessness crisis with 47,000 people registered as homeless at that time.

And many industry bodies have referenced Scotland's housing crisis as the country fails to build enough homes to meet the needs of its population.

So do we have a housing crisis or an emergency?

Crisis and emergency are often used interchangeably, but they can be distinguished. A crisis is a time of intense difficulty or danger where action is required. Generally, the purpose of the action is to prevent a possible and undesirable outcome. Often the action will require fundamental changes to the system which is in crisis.

In an emergency, that undesirable outcome is already here. It is usually a serious, unexpected situation with immediate risk to health, life or property. Immediate action is required to address the issue, with no time to alter the system.

The latest motion to declare a housing emergency was made on the back of new research undertaken by Homes for Scotland, and revealed at its recent annual conference, that 693,000 Scottish households (that's 28% of all households) are in some form of housing need. As Esther Dijkstra, Lloyds Banking Group, said at the conference, access to housing determines outcomes in life. Society benefits if everyone has a safe and affordable home as it leads to better education outcomes; lower levels of youth crime; improved communities; and better physical and mental health.

With those societal issues at stake, the lack of housing in Scotland must surely be considered to be a serious situation with immediate risk to health and life, but it isn't unexpected. A shortfall of over 114,000 homes has been accumulating since 2008.

In 2015, the Scottish Government recognised that action was required and embarked on a review of the planning system, designed inter alia to increase housing delivery. Yet the continuing downward trend in the number of new homes started across all tenures indicates that the changes have not averted an undesirable outcome.

Against that background, housing in Scotland should perhaps be considered both a crisis and an emergency.

As Richard Donnell of Zoopla stated in his presentation to the HFS conference, we need both long-term planning and short-term change.

Craig McLaren, the new National Planning Improvement Champion, stressed the need for political leadership at local level to deliver housing of all tenures.

The need for an all-tenure approach was echoed by the current Housing Minister, Paul McLennan, as he expressed a desire to remove the barriers which are currently preventing more homes being built. He identified 3 key areas of focus - the need for policy clarity (including the interpretation of NPF4's housing policies and a review of the housing need and demand assessment process); recruiting more planning officers; and land availability.

Lindsay Lauder of Wheatley Group highlighted that social housing is a highly investible sector with low risk, stable, income streams and the Minister voiced his intention to encourage institutional investment to unlock some of Scotland's strategic housing sites.

The Minister acknowledged that Scotland's housing needs aren't currently being met, but we need to get there. As Eve McCurrich of Whiteburn said, we need to do better. And keep doing better until we get to our best.

Whether it is a crisis or an emergency, both immediate action and systemic change is needed to address Scotland's housing shortage. As Jane Wood, Chief Executive of Homes for Scotland, said in closing the conference, the solutions sit across local and central government, investors, banks, home builders and utilities as well as consumers and broader society as Scotland's population deserves better.