As of this month the right to buy has been abolished for council tenants in Scotland. The latest stats from the Scottish Government say:
“There were 1,609 sales of local authority dwellings in the year to end December 2015, up 0.6% on the 1,599 in the year to end December 2014.”
No doubt some more will have got in under the wire this year. They will have just managed to scrabble together the deposit before the deadline kicked in on August 1st. So for a few more Scots the dream of owning the home they live in will have become a reality – albeit the discounts were less generous than those available in England. But they are the last in line. 450,000 have been bought in Scotland since 1979. For those families that is a policy that has meant real Scottish independence – the independence from the state that home ownership represents. So it’s the end of an old song as the Earl of Seafield would say.
Robert and Joan Sturgeon seized that chance for independence in May 1984 in their “pebbledash house in the former mining village of Dreghorn in Ayrshire”; they managed to stump up the £8,400 required. It was certainly a canny move – the property is now worth around £150,000. They are still living there. But their daughter Nicola, the Scottish First Minister, has moved out. She now lives with her husband in their £228,000 house in Glasgow.
So well done to the Sturgeons. A family showing impeccable Thatcherite credentials of aspiration. The difficulty is that having climbed the ladder, Nicola has been determined to kick the ladder away for her fellow Scots.
I am pleased that the Scottish Conservatives favour reintroducing the right to buy for council tenants. (Although it is disappointing that they oppose the right to buy for housing association tenants).
Naturally the Scottish Labour Party oppose the right to buy – although they are increasingly becoming a political irrelevance. When it comes to Wales, however, Labour’s effort to thwart aspiration still has clout. Already the discount has been halved from £16,000 to £8,000. Now it is proposed that it be abolished altogether.
Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, says:
“We must safeguard our social housing stock … this bill will seek to protect that stock from further reductions.”
The mentality is flawed for two reasons. Firstly, just because the ownership of property is transferred from the state to the people who live in it does not mean the property is “lost”. It still exists. Secondly, there is a requirement in England for the proceeds from sales to deliver replacement properties within a three year period – and this requirement is generally being met or exceeded. Where a Council fails then central Government takes the money and ensures the new homes are delivered. So while Jones might claim to be a pragmatist, he is exposed as an ideologue.
We sometimes hear socialist politicians lamenting the great difficulty many have in being able to afford to buy. But the measure of their sincerity is whether they come up with policies to allow more people to meet his challenge. Or whether, instead, they choose to make it harder. Both the SNP in Scotland and Labour in Wales are slamming the door in the face of those trying to buy their homes.