14 May 2009

Building for Scotland’s future

For many years Scotland’s housing situation grew steadily worse as more and more people found themselves unable to get access to council housing or move onto the property ladder. Shortages in council housing got worse year after year as more homes were purchased and taken out of the system without replacements being built. In the last four years of the previous administration, just 6 council houses were built – none of them on mainland Scotland.

Significant numbers of Banff & Buchan residents and people across Scotland have faced problems with the waiting lists for council housing; problems exacerbated by the previous administration’s unwillingness to address the shortages in housing availability. Now with the SNP Government, that situation is beginning to change for the better. In our first year in Government, work on more public sector homes was started than at any time since the early 1990s and we have done even more since then.

In order to kick-start construction of a new generation of council housing, the Scottish Government is investing £50 million in the sector, the most spent in 30 years. As well as enabling the construction of new council housing across Scotland, this money will also help to support around 3,000 jobs in the construction industry at a time when such investment is needed most.

This money for new council housing comes as part of a record £1.5 billion over three years invested in Scotland’s affordable housing sector by the SNP Government. Of that, £644 million has been provided for housing association investment this year alone, a record high that will play an important part in our economic recovery during the current downturn. Thanks to this investment, an unprecedented 8,100 affordable homes will be approved for construction across Scotland this year.

As well as investing such significant amounts of money, it is also imperative that needed reforms to right to buy legislation are carried out. Local authorities will not be motivated to build new homes if they fear that they will be taken out of the market at a loss to them. The Scottish Government is currently consulting on much needed reforms that could potentially retain between 10,000 and 18,000 homes for low cost rent that would otherwise be lost through right to buy legislation. With the right changes to the current framework, we can see the improvements to council house provision that Scotland so desperately needs.

Brown must back down on Royal Mail privatisation

It will not be news to anybody that Gordon Brown is continuing to have a disastrous few weeks as he lurches from one crisis to the next. Yet he has it in his power to avoid the next damaging blow by dropping his poorly thought out plans to privatise part of the Royal Mail.

The universal service obligation that ensures daily postal deliveries across the country is vital to people in rural communities, like parts of Banff & Buchan, and it is intolerable that it should potentially be put at threat for the sake of the Prime Minister’s pride. It is no surprise that the Conservatives are intent on doing further damage to Scotland’s communities in their fanaticism for privatisation, but the fact that Gordon Brown seems likely to be reliant on their support to get his changes through should tell him how ill-judged they truly are.

The service the Royal Mail provides is too important to be taken out of public hands and it is essential that Gordon Brown realises this and backs down before he causes irreparable damage.

Stewart Stevenson
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