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Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Scotland
brings an end to ‘right to buy’

‘Right
to buy’, the savage Thatcherite policy of turning poor people into homeowners,
is apparently to be
scrapped completely
by the SNP government. Deputy First Minister Nicola
Sturgeon is going to confirm the administration’s decision during a visit to a
Glasgow housing development. The scheme has already been closed to new tenants –
and in some places, there has even been talking of buying
back
ex-council properties.

All
of this contrasts with England, where the government has injected new life into
the programme and seen
results
.

The
article above linked suggests the reason for the SNP’s decision is that right
to buy has reduced levels of public housing stock (which it almost certainly
has), and thus increased waiting lists for low-rent accommodation. This
connexion between right to buy and housing shortages was also made last
Thursday on Question Time: Extra Time,
where I was a guest.

Surely
the greater problem is that there simply isn’t enough housing stock, public or
private, to match demand in the places that need it. Blaming right to buy for
this is puzzling as, were that programme not in place, many right to buy
tenants would still be occupying their council houses. The notion that every
council house sold represents people who could have moved out into the normal
private housing market is surely wide of the mark.


Wales
adopts ‘opt-out’ organ donation

The
Welsh Assembly has legislated so that people dying in Wales will be presumed to
have consented to donating their organs unless they have explicitly opted out
of the scheme. AMs hope that this will lead to a 25 per cent increase in
donors.

Happily,
organs harvested in Wales can be sent anywhere in the country and, with only 30
per cent or so of organs harvested in Wales transplanted into a Welsh resident,
this move could benefit patients across the UK – provided that Wales doesn’t
actually see a reduction in overall organ numbers, as has happened in some
other places that have introduced presumed consent.

Welsh
Health Minister Mark Drakeford was keen to make sure that everybody knew how
progressive they were being: "Wales is a progressive nation and this is a
progressive policy for that progressive nation," said he. Despite that, it
may well still prove a good idea.

No
consensus on an opposition for Stormont

To
someone unfamiliar with Northern Ireland’s history, the Northern Ireland
Assembly looks the way a parliament might look if it were designed by one of
those teachers that likes to ruin sports day. Everybody who gets anywhere in an
election gets a prize, and nobody loses.

One
outcome of this is that the Northern Ireland executive, which wields a broad
range of devolved powers, has nobody to scrutinise it and hold it to account.
There are no shadow ministers, and with every party with any strength complicit
in governance there’s not much manpower left in any case. It wouldn’t be quite
true to say that there’s no opposition at all, but the TUV’s Jim Allister can’t
be everywhere at once.

This
state of affairs is set to continue after the various parties of the NI
Executive failed
to agree
on establishing an official opposition. Northern Ireland will have
to live without executive scrutiny for a while longer.

The
challenge, as ever, is how to weaken the all-must-have-prizes nature of the
Assembly without eroding its cross-community focus. Without some sort of
mandatory cross-communal coalition the chamber would either settle into an
uneasily tight unionist deadlock, as per the old Parliament, or careen between
unionist and nationalist domination. Neither outcome would do anything either
to make the province more stable or to normalise its politics (as the sectarian
headcount would become more important than ever).

But
if the DUP and Sinn Fein are bound together, the smaller parties needn’t be.
The SDLP, UUP or Alliance could each decide to forgo its share of seats on the
executive in order to move into opposition, a position which could offer from
freedom from the collective responsibility of the government and increased
media attention. As yet, however, none of them have managed to resist the lure
of the government positions guaranteed them by their vote share.

Scottish
troops prefer the British army

According
to a poll
by the Henry Jackson Society, a strong majority of Scottish
soldiers currently serving in the UK armed forces would prefer to continue such
service rather than join a separate Scotland’s own ‘defence forces’ (‘armies’
presumably being nasty, right-wing, reactionary things).

The
HJS approached officers in Scottish battalions, who then questioned their men
and passed on the results, after the MoD declined to conduct a large-scale poll
of Scottish troops. Researcher George Grant has also authored
a paper
for the HJS on the SNP’s defence policy for an independent Scotland
(or lack thereof).

Whilst
not sounding methodologically watertight (no careful weighting of the poll
sample, and so on), it nonetheless provides an interesting insight into the
attitudes of armed forces personnel towards the independence issue. With the
army being one of the strongest pan-British institutions still in existence, it
wouldn’t surprise me if they polled much stronger for the Union than Scots as a
whole. We’d need more polling to draw any real conclusions on that front,
though.

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