Scottish Parliament ratifies housing bill
Advice from one of Scotland's first minister's senior advisers that there was nothing to fear from the extension of the right to buy planned in the housing bill failed to calm a mass picket at the Scottish Parliament.
Special adviser to Scotland's first minister, Professor Duncan Maclennan, addressed delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland conference on Tuesday night. On Wednesday afternoon volunteer committee members and housing association staff lobbied MSPs on the Housing (Scotland) Bill, before it was ratified.
The bill, which has been agreed to on the broad principles, now passes to stage two when MSPs have the chance to discuss amendments.
Professor Maclennan, of the University of Glasgow, denied accusations that the Scottish Executive was pushing to extend home ownership across Scotland.
Speaking at the conference, he said: ‘Until now a third of housing association tenants have had the right to buy and it has not led to run-down communities and it has not created insuperable difficulties.'
‘We are making the right to buy much less generous; we are driving less down the road to home ownership than has previously been the case,' he said.
‘We are not saying you will be a renter and you will be a homeowner, we are saying you have a choice,' he added.
Picketers converged on the Scottish Parliament to make their point to MSPs as they entered for the afternoon session, when the housing bill was to be discussed.
That came 24 hours after a petition signed by 885 unpaid committee members who manage the voluntary housing movement was presented to the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations director Dave Alexander said 150 to 200 people turned out and demonstrators were distributing a leaflet rebutting the Executive's arguments.
He added: ‘Many tenants actively got involved with housing associations because they saw the best council housing disappearing under the right to buy. They thought that by setting up community-based housing associations they could guarantee the supply of good quality, affordable housing for as long as it was needed.
He added: ‘By effectively destroying their work, the government is hitting not at well paid housing professionals, but at the unpaid efforts of people in the community, many of whom are unemployed, disabled or caring full time for their children.'
But the Executive claimed to have taken account of concerns expressed by the SFHA. They point out that the Housing Bill, in making changes to the discount regime, proposes a greater balance between the benefits to tenants and the future receipts to landlords. There will also be a delay in the extension of RTB of up to ten years.
A Scottish Executive spokesperson said: ‘Three out of four Scottish tenants aspire to own their own home. That aspiration needs to be recognised, without encouraging into ownership those who cannot afford it.'