Four in ten Scots 'never speak to homeless people'
Study finds 41% of people are 'fearful' of stopping to speak to rough sleepers.
Two-thirds of Scots say they never stop to speak to homeless people, according to a study.
Street Soccer Scotland, who commissioned research into Scots' attitudes to homelessness, found 41% - equating to some three million people - say they are "fearful" of stopping to speak to rough sleepers.
The research shows younger people (aged 16 to 24) are least likely to stop and only a quarter (25%) say they would do so.
The study showed 48% of people in the age group were most likely to say they are afraid of speaking to rough sleepers.
Older age groups were less likely to be anxious about speaking to rough sleepers, with 38% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 43% of those aged over 65 being afraid.
The research comes as campaigners are calling on both the Scottish and UK governments to make the "long term investment" needed to bring an end to homelessness.
Homeless Action Scotland (HAS) made the plea in the run-up to Chancellor Philip Hammond's Budget next week, while Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay will outline his spending plans in December.
David Duke, founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, who was homeless for three years, said: "Having experienced homelessness I know what it's like to to spend your days alone, with no-one to speak to.
"I also know the difference that having someone to talk to can make when you've lost all hope.
"I'm really shocked at the number of people who say they don't stop to speak to people who are homeless, and especially by the number who say they're afraid to.
"Instead of sympathy, they're feeling fear and we have to ask why and how we can change their perceptions."
It is estimated that each year around 5000 people are forced to sleep rough on Scotland's streets.
Last year, 9187 homelessness applications were received from people aged 16 to 24.
HAS chief executive Gavin Yates said that action to tackle the problem was "at a crossroads".
The Scottish Government has already announced funding of £50m to help tackle homelessness over five years, while a special action group is being established in a bid to cut rough sleeping.
Speaking ahead of the National Homelessness Conference in Glasgow, Mr Yates said: "Scotland is at a crossroads in terms of its willingness to tackle homelessness in all of its many forms.
"I think public opinion is firmly on the side of action and both civil society and politicians are starting to address the fundamental issues of poverty, disadvantage, housing supply and support.
"We welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to tackling both rough sleeping and reform of temporary accommodation and we have been involved in discussions on both already."
"However," he added, "with both a UK budget and a Scottish budget to be announced before the end of year, we need to see long term investment to make the changes we want to see to end homelessness.
"There needs to be a national consensus to drive the progress we all wish to see and to really achieve the result for the people we serve."
Housing minister Kevin Stewart stated: "Tackling and preventing homelessness is a key government priority which is why we recently established a Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, to work on the actions required to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation."
He added: "Scotland has some of the strongest rights for homeless people in the world. We want to ensure people are accessing those, recognising that it requires more than just the provision of housing.
"That can only be achieved through joint working, and I am delighted to work with a range of partners, including HAS, to effect change and tackling the underlying causes of homelessness, and prevent it before it occurs."