Bill Mair of Solidarity argues it is time to be introducing a maximum wage for top Council Officials
“Like Harry Enfield’s Brummie Millionaire character, they don’t accept that £80K is more than enough for anyone, because they need to know they are “considerably richer than you””
How many of us would be absolutely delighted with a household income of £80K pa?
If we had that amount coming into the house, we wouldn’t have money worries; we could pay off our debts, fix the car, mend the windows, even afford a decent holiday for the family.
Now imagine if just one member of the household made that amount of money. In most families across Scotland that would mean easily surviving on just one salary. The other members of the household wouldn’t need to work
Well, Solidarity calls for a maximum wage for Council and ALeO (arms-length organisations, such as Cultural Trusts and Sports & Leisure Trust) officials.
We feel £80,000 is more than enough money for anyone to live on. It is 5x the Living Wage of £16K pa.
Furthermore, if we take Fife Council, the third largest in Scotland as an example, we see they employ 30 people on over £80K, including the Chief Executive, who makes £147K. Delving into our FoI enquiry results, we calculate that they would save OVER 1/2 million pounds EVERY YEAR if they adopted our policy
That’s more than 30 jobs on the Living Wage. That’s a library up and running in just one council.
We don’t have exact figures for the rest of Scotland but we know that Glasgow City Council pays more than 32 council chiefs over £100K, so the savings in Scotland’s second city would be exponentially greater were they to impose Solidarity’s wage cap.
So, what’s stopping them taking our advice? Do people think they can’t survive on such a paltry amount as £80K when the rest of us are counting our pennies as pay day comes around?
That’s not the problem.
The problem is that the upper-middle classes want to maintain the differential. It’s not enough that they have more than enough to live on: they need to have more than the people below them on the income ladder. If you gave everyone a pay rise so that they now earned £90K but so did everyone else, they wouldn’t be happy. It’s about being better. They need to be able to look down on people to feel good.
It’s the Politics of Envy.
The Politics of Envy is when the rich and middle class complain that refugees have phones so they can’t be genuine. It’s when the Daily Mail or Benefit Street shows us that benefit claimants have a TV or they smoke, so they’re not deserving poor.
Like Harry Enfield’s Brummie Millionaire character, they don’t accept that £80K is more than enough for anyone, because they need to know they are “considerably richer than you”
Smug politicians say that socialists suffer from the Politics of Envy when we complain about the unnecessary inequality in society. They’ve got it the wrong way round.
Bill Mair is the National Co-Secretary for Solidarity, Scotland’s Socialist Movement.
Claire Thain of the action group Scottish Militant Ninja Turtles explains why SMNT are calling for a mass protest against the Tories the first week in March, and why you should come along, and bring your friends and your banners.
The North British Tory Conference will take place on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th of March at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), Exhibition Way, Glasgow.
We are calling on ALL those who support Scottish independence and ALL those who oppose Tory ideology to join us as we say unequivocally, “TORIES, TORIES, TORIES, OUT OUT OUT” on Saturday the 4th of March.
Reasons to stand in direct opposition to the Tories in the YES city of Glasgow are varied and plentiful. Just some of those reasons are outlined below:
Whether you voted Leave or Remain in the Brexit referendum, the Tories at Westminster and in their northern outpost stand against the express will of the majority of the Scottish people.
Theresa May has made no commitment to work with the Scottish Government to respect the wishes of the people of Scotland, whilst Ruth Davidson and her red tory allies here in Scotland have made it clear that chauvinistic British Nationalism, and preserving British interests in Scotland, is preferable to serving the interests of those they have been elected to represent.
A commitment by the Tories to continue cutting tax credits is driven by a desire to crush the low-paid. Their heinous commitment more widely to “austerity” is making the lives of those struggling to get by even more difficult and with the “Bedroom Tax 2” on the horizon the trajectory of punishing the poor against a backdrop of the rich getting richer is clear for all to see.
Westminster’s plans for a fresh round of highly punitive welfare cuts threatens to undermine housebuilding projects, increase homelessness and weaken the resolve, power, and cohesiveness of working class communities.
Standing with Workers
During the recent by thousands of rail, post and airline workers, Theresa May despicably attempted to turn worker against worker by accusing those striking for fair pay and conditions as having “contempt” for ordinary people. We say it is Theresa May, Ruth Davidson and extreme right wing Tory ideology that displays the most vicious contempt for ordinary people.
We must not let them gain any sort of foothold in Scotland and we must show solidarity to our neighbours in England who are suffering.
The privatisation of the NHS in England and the knock on effect that will have in Scotland is a scary prospect. NHS services are missing targets for life-threatening emergencies and recently The British Red Cross declared a humanitarian crisis in the NHS in England.
The return of the Red Cross to Europe recently is the first time since the Second World War and is the extreme and ugly face of Tory austerity.
Theresa May has said she would be willing to authorise a nuclear strike that could kill 100,000 people and was part of the vote to replace Britain’s expensive and immoral Trident programme.
The scandal is backed by the North British Tories and based only miles down the river Clyde from where they intend to host their conference. The question is, if we do not unite and fight NOW then when?
Our Rally Cry?
Freedom from Westminster and Holyrood Tories!
For those that think turning up to resist Tories in the flesh is a pointless exercise or who prefer to submerge themselves in electoral politics or centrist tinkering, I give to you Nye Bevan, the Welsh Labour Party politician and Minister for Health in the post-war Attlee government from 1945 to 1951 who famously and aptly said,
"We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down".
Don’t get run down!
JOIN THE TORY RESISTANCE on Saturday the 4th of March from 11am at the SECC.
See event page for details:
Remember to join, invite and share, or create your own event under whichever anti-Tory banner you see fit.
Claire Thain is an independence activist from North Lanarkshire
Private tenancies are largely a bum deal, argues Rob Dewar, and the Scottish Government needs to massively expand its ambitions on social housing.
I wish in this piece to show the scale of the need for a massive ongoing programme of social and council house build in Scotland; and to show also why the current reliance on private landlords in the housing market is very damaging indeed both to the people who must rent from them, and to the nation’s economy.
I suggest that in embarking on an extensive programme of social and council house build, the present large-scale need for private landlords will ultimately disappear. I suggest also that it should be made very much less attractive for private landlords to enter the rentals market.
The 2011 census estimated there were 2.4 million households in Scotland. 62% of these, or 1.5 million, owned their home; either outright (28%) or they owned with a loan or a mortgage (34%). 24% (576 000) lived in social rented accommodation, and 14% (325 000) lived in private rented accommodation.
In Scotland, the private rented sector has doubled over the last decade to more than 300 000 households. (The Independent 26 February 2014). It is unacceptable that so many people live without long term security of tenure, dependent on fate and on their landlords for their ongoing health and happiness.
Scotland needs a radical solution to the housing crisis, not the half-hearted measures the SNP promotes – measures carefully calibrated not to overly offend the rentier class (for fear of alienating its vote).
Social housing is certainly more prevalent in Scotland than in England, comprising almost 24% of all Scottish housing stock, compared with 17% in England. The proportion of housing in the private rented sector is 12% in Scotland, compared with 17% in England In 2011, just under a quarter (24%) of all households in Scotland were living in social housing, down from 41% in 1991. Within the same period, the proportion of households who rent their homes privately had doubled, from 7% in 1991 to 14% in 2011. These are figures that ought to incense every Scottish socialist as much as they incense me.
Shockingly – but perhaps not surprisingly - average private sector rents are 86% higher than the average cost of renting a property in the social housing sector, according to the research by the New Policy Institute. In a 2013 report by the Auditor General for Scotland, it was estimated there would be an additional half a million households in Scotland by 2038. Single person households over the same period would almost double.
The SNP announced towards the end of the previous parliament that it would build 50 000 “affordable homes” during the lifetime of the current Scottish Parliament, of which – it said – 35 000 would be social housing; that works out at 7 000 social housing units a year planned to be built.
During the previous parliament’s life, the SNP administration claimed that it would have built 30 000 additional “affordable homes” between 2011 – 2016, of which 20 000 were to have been for social rent; that’s 4 000 social housing units a year. However, in the year ending September 2015, only 1 450 new council houses were commenced building, of which 1 051 were completed.
In other words, the SNP commits to only increasing the number of houses for social rent to be built during the current parliament’s lifetime by 15 000 over the previous parliament’s target. That’s only 3 000 extra social housing units planned to be built a year over the number planned to have been completed each year between 2011 – 2016. It remains to be seen whether there will be any more success in meeting this target than there was with the unmet 2011-2016 target.
To give an idea of the scale of the need for social housing in Scotland, I quote these figures. According to the Liberal Democrats (3-7-14), of the 170 352 people on Scottish local authority waiting lists for social housing, 33 334 had been on the list for at least 5 years, with 13 021 on it for a decade or more.
It is true there is one achievement the SNP administration can indeed rightly boast of, that the right of council tenants to buy the homes they rent, is to be abolished.
Thatcher’s Housing Act of 1980 (right-to-buy) savaged council housing stock, as tenants rushed to make use of the generous discounted purchase prices for their homes. New council tenants in Scotland are already denied the right to buy their homes; the right-to-buy scheme will have been totally abolished by 2017.
The SNP’s Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill of this year (2016) claims to make provision for protecting 700 000 people from the prospect of unforeseen and unfair eviction, and from unpredictability over rent increases. These claims are however only minimally met. Should a private landlord wish to sell his property, the tenant, if asked to quit his tenancy, would have no choice but to comply – and thus, lose his or her home. Should the private landlord’s new legally permitted annual rent increases ultimately cripple the tenant, there is little the tenant can do about it but leave, unable to afford to pay the rent any longer.
I consider that this bill is if anything biased in favour of the rentier class, even if in extreme cases yet to be evaluated in practical terms, it allows for the authorisation by Scottish ministers of rent controls to be applied by local authorities in “rent pressure zones”.
It seems to me that an investment considerably exceeding the £1.7 billion the Scottish administration claims to have invested in affordable homes over the lifetime of the 2011 - 2016 parliament, must be made during the lifetime of the current parliament – and the next again – if we are to match the greater part of growing demand for homes in Scotland; especially in demand for social/council housing.
But, however you cut it, the existence of a growing rentier class in Scotland – that class which waxes rich off the most fundamental human need after food and clothing (I refer to the need for secure shelter) – is a national disgrace. As mentioned earlier, in Scotland the private rented sector has doubled over the last decade to more than 300 000 households. The percentage of home-makers living in private rented accommodation is far too high. In as much as many of these will be receiving housing benefit to help pay their rent, this high figure equates with an unjustifiable state subsidy ultimately passed on to private landlords.
So many of Scotland’s social ills are linked to the insecurities, frustrations, hardships, fears and anger associated with the dearth of affordable homes, above all, of the shortage of affordable homes to rent. More and more young people are coming to realise that they are unlikely ever to own, or even to be able to rent, a decent home in which they can hope to raise a family. For tenants of private landlords, life is almost always insecure and cripplingly expensive. And these tenants’ numbers are growing.
True, Westminster has closed a number of tax loopholes associated with residential property ownership, along with having imposed an extra 3% stamp duty surcharge. However, these measures are too few, and too modest by far, to address the problem.
(Which, considering that one of the Tories’ major constituencies comprises buy-to-let residential property owners, and that many Tory MPs are major landlords in the residential market, is not surprising).
I would point out that the growing attraction of “buy-to-rent” is economically damaging also. Cash to invest in manufacturing goods for local and export consumption, and for associated research and development, is being choked off at source, channelled into speculative home ownership. Investment in buy-to-let needs to be made less financially attractive
The Resolution Foundation has warned that nine out of ten people under the age of 35 on modest incomes in Scotland would within another ten years find it impossible to ever own their own home, being unable to save for a deposit on a mortgage due to high rents – especially in Scotland’s cities.
It is becoming critically urgent that something be done to eject private landlords from the homes rental market, whilst providing many more social housing units to rent.
The most effective way to achieve this – after more stringent fiscal and financial restraints being imposed – is for the Scottish administration to embark on a truly massive programme of building social and council housing.
The housing charity Shelter Scotland, in its outline in February this year, has highlighted four challenges for the (current) Holyrood parliament:
In my view, if we are to loosen the stranglehold that private landlords currently apply in Scottish home rentals, the most effective way to do so would be to hugely increase the supply of council housing. No matter which way you look at it, the demand for social housing (including council housing) still far outstrips Scottish administration plans for new social housing build. Until this shortfall is addressed, 12% and rising of available housing in Scotland (this is the proportion for private rentals) offers little to no long-term security of tenure to home-makers, and provides them with inadequate protection in law.
I yearn for a Scottish administration bold enough and radical enough to make buy-to-let very unattractive indeed, and to force private landlords almost entirely out of the homes rental market. The primary means to accomplish these ends is also the answer to the shortage of affordable homes to rent.
It is to engage in a huge programme of social housing and council housing build.
Bill Mair of Solidarity Fife branch, argues his – and Solidarity's - case.
The first motion that was voted through at Solidarity party conference last Saturday sets Solidarity, Scotland's Socialist Movement apart from any other party in Scotland.
The motion, entitled Anti-Racist Scottish Independence, sets out clearly the reasons for the party's stance on independence and more significantly, separates the quest for independence from folklore and history.
We believe that we are the only party to explicitly tie independence to socialism and a better future, cutting all links and references to Scottish history.
"It starts off sounding innocent, when you hear someone saying that Scotland is the best country in the world. It is just patriotism, right? But what does that say about my little brother, born in Kent? Or my friends from Palestine, Poland and Pakistan?" as one delegate argued
We want to say to everyone living in Scotland, regardless of where they or their parents were born, that for Solidarity, Scottish independence is not about being better than any other country or disliking any other people.
It's not about Scots being better than any other people.
It's certainly not, for us as socialists, about Robert the Bruce or some ancient blood feud with a neighbouring nation.
It is about forging a new future free from the UK and its imperialist warmongering, free from its greed, its capitalism, its parochial narrow-mindedness towards refugees, its naked aggression towards disabled people, the unemployed and everyone that capitalism has left behind.
It's about fighting for the chance to build a new and better country - a socialist society, and economy, which prizes equality and a comfortable dignified life for everyone, regardless.
An independent socialist republic of Scotland will take wealth and power from the 1% and redistribute wealth and power to the rest of us, the 99%. We will make the rich poorer so the poor can become richer.
Now, obviously we stress that Scottish history and culture have a legitimate place and we do not condemn anyone for their interest in such pursuits. The motion simply seeks to clarify exactly why we should have independence and what we will do with it when we get it.
There are a number of political parties in the independence campaign but no other has the clear stance adopted by Solidarity on Saturday.
As I said when I moved this motion on Saturday:
In campaigning resolutely for Scottish Independence Solidarity does not campaign for blood and soil and history.
We fight for peace and socialism and the future.
RISE member, Gary Anderton, says support the railway workers
Tuesday 21st June saw the first of six 24 hour strikes taking place across Scotland. These strikes are taking place as Guards/Conductors working for Scotrail have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action due to the unsatisfactory responses given by franchise holder Abellio in regards to the continued roll out of DOO trains (Driver Only Operated).
Currently there are a select few services running in suburban central belt routes as well as Glasgow to Edinburgh which are DOO. RMT Union have continually demanded that Abellio rule out any more of these trains joining the current rolling stock yet their answers have been far from convincing. The purpose of these trains are to have the Drivers operating the doors rather than the Guards who currently do so. This results in two main problems above all else. First of these being that it could more than likely result in job loses, job restructuring and attack on terms and conditions. Secondly, DOO trains leave massive unanswered questions when it comes to public safety.
Guards have been a vital part of our railways. Hundreds work across our rail network and to lose them would be a blatant attack on workers in the name of modernisation. For too long businesses have used modernisation as an excuse to tear away at our workers rights and our conditions. Fortunately with RMT, railway workers have one of the most successful and militant Unions in Britain who have fought tirelessly not only for workers they represent but society as a whole with their many political campaigns.
Safety on trains must be number one priority always. Abellio have put forward evidence which suggests that DOO Trains are no more unsafe than that of one's which have Guards present. The problem with this though is that their evidence is focused on incidents involving the opening and closing of doors. Though, even this has proven to be dangerous. Only last year a woman in England got her bag caught in the closing door of a train and as it took off it pulled her off the platform. This train was a DOO and the driver never noticed the woman stuck. This also raises the question of whether DOO Trains are putting too much responsibility onto the Driver who already has many safety critical duties.
Outwith door incidents, there are many other safety concerns. Guards are the only other safety critical member of staff present on a train other than the driver. Should an incident occur which leaves the driver unable to lead an evacuation of the train then what is proposed that should happen? Trains late at night can also be a dangerous place, particularly for women. Guards present not only give the feeling of safety but they are the safety. Should an assault take place then they are there to intervene and phone the police.
With public safety in mind I urge everyone, regardless of how inconvenienced they are by these strikes, to support them with the hope that our railways will continue to be a safe space for all those who travel on them.
Pro-independence socialist party Solidarity has called on Nicola Sturgeon to announce a date for IndyRef2, a second Scottish Independence Referendum.
Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP and First Minister stated before the Scottish Parliamentary elections that another vote on independence could be triggered if Scotland voted to stay in the EU but the overall result across the UK was for Brexit.
In a joint statement Rosemary Byrne and Pat Lee, co-convenors of Solidarity, which attracted the largest socialist vote in the Scottish elections, said:
“Solidarity calls on Nicola Sturgeon as a matter of urgency to announce the date of the second Scottish Independence referendum – no ifs, buts or ‘options’. The people of Scotland elected her and her party on the promise of indyref2 and now it’s time to honour that promise. A whopping 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU.
We consider that a date in or before 2018 would be suitable – certainly no later. April 6th 2020 should be our target date for Scottish Independence Day, marking 700 years since the Declaration of Arbroath.
Solidarity campaigned for Lexit, Left Exit from the EU for very different reasons from those of the right-wing Leave and Brexit groups. Nevertheless, the people of Scotland have spoken and demanded that we remain. That is also a demand for indyref2.”
According to the mainstream media you would think that the EU debate has almost exclusively been an argument on the right of politics. The Point is happy to play its small part in trying to correct that unfortunate and misleading view. Four very different left voices - Dario Argentina, John Wight, Bill Mair and Hugh Kerr - argue their various cases for both Leave and Remain.
The EU is a vehicle for Anglo-German imperialist domination of the South: Let’s bring this mother down!
First up, Dario Argentina comes up with a very interesting and original argument for voting Leave
Up until yesterday, I was convinced that an abstention from the EU referendum vote was the correct position to take. Indeed, this referendum was not brought about by a mass working class movement putting forward a socialist Leave programme, but stems from an internal division within the Conservative Party, reflecting the confusion and lack of direction within the capitalist class. Surely, then, this is a referendum based on how best to manage British capitalism, either within the imperialist EU or as an ‘independent’ imperialist state?
Formally speaking, yes it absolutely is. But this is from the point of view of the bourgeois. It’s clear that the main ruling fraction of the British capitalist class support remaining in the EU. This alone, however, is not reason to vote against them and vote Leave.
Instead, we need to consider the working class movement as a whole across Europe. As I write this, French workers are striking and rioting against labour laws that the government intends to impose to make it easier to sack workers. Last month, the Greek government passed a budget for the next round of austerity enforced by the Troika. In Portugal, trade union struggle and the Left is on the rise.
Countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain have become debt colonies for the parasitic finance capitalists that gain their share of surplus value through debt, interest and extortion. This is enabled by the ‘freedom of movement [of capital]’ within the EU framework. Companies like JP Morgan, PWC, E&Y and of course Goldman Sachs engineered Greece’s entry to the EU and adoption of the Euro in order to grant the government multi-billion dollar loans that could never be paid off.
A British vote to Leave the EU would send the whole EU imperialist project into turmoil and could even deliver a fatal blow. Objectively, this would strengthen the working class in ‘Southern’ Europe who are already entering the arena of class struggle.
It’s true that the EU debate in this country has become extremely toxic and centred around immigration. However, even the Remain side is calling for tougher immigration controls! The reality is, whatever way the vote goes, the nationalist genie of jingo is out the bottle. The only way to cut across the chauvinism on both sides is to counter-pose it to a working class socialist programme. Many concerns about immigration, for example, are really due to inadequate and under-funded public services and lack of affordable housing.
Admittedly, the Left are not in a position to do this with any real weight, which was another reason for my initial reaction to abstain. In that sense, the vote is a lose-lose one for British workers. However, for those workers in ‘Southern’ Europe under the heel of Anglo-German finance capital, this offers them a chance to smash the imperialist EU and ignite the European class struggle.
The reality is, the revolution is not going to be started by the English, at least not at this stage. But a Brexit vote could aid socialist forces on the continent and those workers already struggling against EU-imposed austerity. Mass movements across Europe could then inspire us Brits back home to take up our pitchforks and turn them against the main enemy at home.
This referendum is not under ideal circumstances. Whatever happens, it will be bad. But for those Socialist Remainers waiting for the ‘right’ conditions for a Brexit – if not now, when? Workers can’t wait another four years for a Labour government (which wouldn’t support Brexit anyway, based on Corbyn’s current position).
Sectarians can stand on the sideline, but class struggle never takes a pure, ideal form. We have to utilise the limited options that we have available to us, even when they fall from the capitalists’ table. That’s why I’m urging all conscious socialist internationalists and Abstainers to play a role in smashing Anglo-German imperialism for our sisters and brothers across Europe and Vote Leave!
The ideological collapse of the pro-Brexit left
John Wight argues aganst getting into bed with the Brexit right, and that left led Leave campaign must wait for a Labour Government
The referendum over Britain’s membership of the EU has from inception involved two wings of the Tory Party engaged in an internecine war, pitching the free marketeers of Cameron, Osborne and company against the empire loyalists of Johnson, Gove, and IDS et al. In the words of the song we’re talking “clowns to the left and jokers to the right.”
But what the clowns led by Cameron and Osborne have in their favour vis-a-vis the EU that the jokers do not is that the case for Remain approximates to something that resembles the real world - i.e. the risk to investment, jobs and trade should Brexit come to pass.
Learning lessons of the Falklands War
Strip away the embroidery and Brexit is a far right project driven by the most reactionary and regressive political current in British political life today, fuelled by anti-immigration and xenophobia in service to a mythological British identity that harks back to the 19th century when Britannia ruled the waves, Johnny Foreigner knew his place, and the Union Jack flew wherever it damn well pleased. The last time this mythological identity, underpinned by an eruption of right wing consciousness, gained prominence was in the aftermath of the Falklands War in 1982.
In the lead up the conflict over the Falklands with Argentina, Thatcher was down in the polls. The free market structural adjustment of the economy her government unleashed upon entering Downing Street in 1980 had by the start of 1982 led the country into recession with a concomitant spike in unemployment and interest rates as aggregate demand was sucked out of the economy in obeisance to the obsession with controlling inflation.
THERE IS NO PROGRESSIVE OR LEFT WING CASE FOR BREXIT
Post Falklands War and the Iron Lady was the woman of the hour as jingoism swept the land and the false consciousness of patriotism - which as Oscar Wilde reminds us the virtue of the vicious - took its course.
Thatcher rode the wave of her new-found popularity in order to continue her assault on the collectivist ideas that underpinned the welfare state, public services and the trade union movement, leading directly to her epic confrontation with the miners, British worked infamously labelled 'the enemy within'.
False arguments of the pro-Brexit left
Learning from this history is a non negotiable condition of ensuring we do not repeat it, yet when it comes to Brexit the collection of rump left wing voices supporting it have not only failed to they have surrendered to right wing nostrums on controlling our own borders, sovereignty, democracy and the claim that the EU is an 'imperialist project'.
Let us deal with those arguments seriatim:
Controlling our own borders: Anyone who has ever experienced the interminable wait to pass through immigration control at Heathrow's Terminal Five will confirm that the assertion being made that UK is not in control of its own borders is false.
When it comes to the free movement of people, which the UK has signed up to as part of its membership of the single market, just over two million British citizens are currently beneficiaries of this right, which has done more to foment cultural ties across Europe than any number of trade delegations or state visits ever have. Moreover, the ability to travel freely across Europe for tourists: is this a bad thing? Is this something to be scrapped?
Those on the left who have subscribed to this mantra are engaging in a reactionary response to what is a symptom of the free movement of capital. In the beggar-thy-neighbour global economy we currently have, otherwise known as neo-liberalism, workers are forced into a race to the bottom as global corporations and investors force governments to compete for jobs and investment. This benefits richer economies, such as the UK’s, at the expense of their poorer counterparts, such as those of Eastern and Southern Europe, which then compels workers to uproot and travel to richer countries in the pursuit of better wages and the means of survival for themselves and their families. In doing so they are merely upholding their natural and moral right.
The stats on immigration are irrefutable. They reveal that EU migrant workers are a net contributor to the economy. Yes, there is an issue with the additional pressure on services, schools, and housing, etc. But this is because under the rubric of austerity the Tories have taken a scalpel to public spending. It is this policy, formulated and administered by the Tories not the EU, that is the enemy of working people in Britain. It is not EU migrant workers. In focusing on immigration we deflect responsibility for austerity from the Tories, where it belongs, onto people whose only crime is that they arrive here seeking improved wages and conditions, just as two million British citizens have done across the EU in return.
Sovereignty: A myth that needs to be confronted and disabused is that national sovereignty exists under a global economic system that transcends borders. Political sovereignty without economic sovereignty is no sovereignty at all. Is the EU a threat to sovereignty? Nonsense. A mere 13 percent of current UK legislation is derived from the EU and it is by far the most progressive legislation we have on everything from workers' rights, consumer rights, maternity leave, and paid holidays, all of which will be at the mercy of a rejuvenated right wing of the Tory Party in the event of
Brexit. Democracy: It is laughable to listen to and read the pro-Brexit left arguing that the EU is anti-democratic while living in a country with an unelected head of state, the Monarchy, and an unelected second chamber, the House of Lords. Taken together both institutions stand as relics of Britain's feudal past and are long past the day when they should have been relegated to the dustbin of history. In 2016 it is those institutions that constitute an impediment to democracy in Britain not the EU.
The EU is an imperialist project: Here a quick history lesson is obviously required to remind people that Britain's history of colonialism and imperialism predates its membership of the EU by around 400 years. Furthermore, in 2003 Tony Blair did not require the sanction of the EU to attach Britain to Washington's coattails and embark on the most disastrous and devastating war since the Vietnam War, the consequences of which the Iraqi people, people living in the wider region, and people here at home and elsewhere throughout the EU, victims of the terrorism and extremism that has proliferated as a result, continue to suffer.
The inference that the British state independent of the EU would automatically shed its imperialist character just cannot be taken seriously. On the contrary, as Noam Chomsky claimed recently, a Tory government post-Brexit would likely place even more emphasis on the Atlantic Alliance with Washington than it does now, along with more importance on its role as a member of NATO, in order to maintain Britain's seat at the imperialist table.
While there may well be solid progressive reasons for opposing the EU, this Brexit campaign is taking place and exists in a right wing political context and its beneficiaries will be those forces rather than the left. If and when Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister and his attempt to run a deficit for the purposes of capital investment in the country's infrastructure, housing, and industry is blocked by the EU, along with his intention of returning the railways to public ownership where they belong, that is the time for the left to support Brexit - for then it will be taking place in a progressive context, underpinned by a progressive political consciousness in the country at large.
Ultimately, at a time when the Conservative Party and the right is ripping itself to shreds in a civil war over the EU, it behooves the left to unite behind the most progressive leader that Labour has had in its entire history in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn, along with the bulk of the trade union movement and the TUC.
#Lexit – A Socialist Perspective
Bill Mair, National Co-Secretary of Solidarity argues for a Leave vote from a left pro-independence perspective.
The argument about #Lexit, Brexit or Remain is choked with economic statistics: we're told the economy will suffer or improve if we leave or remain, depending on who's speaking.
I'm going to leave economics out of my argument except for this one point:
Lies, damn lies and statistics – statistics can be used to prove anything – eg page 8 of the pro-EU British Government leaflet that popped through every door a few weeks ago states that 8% of EU exports come to UK while 44% of UK exports go to EU. This masks the true value of our trade deficit with the EU, which stood at £24 billion for the first quarter of 2016 (source: Guardian 10/5/16 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/10/uk-trade-deficit-hits-new-record-of-24bn-pounds-eu-referendum-brexit).
We buy a lot more from the EU than we sell to them, so the scare story about being locked out of trading with EU states if we leave is nonsense: we are their best customer. They'll move heaven and earth to hold on to us.
The reason I'm leaving statistics out of my argument is because, lies and sleight-of-hand apart, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and so forth mean nothing to the working class. We are the 5th largest economy in the world and yet we have food banks growing at an exponential rate and the working poor are making good use of them. Whether GDP rises or falls makes no difference to the vast majority of us because we don't see the benefit.
The stats we see and read from the Better Together/Remain campaign are Project Fear Mk2 – like the bluster of an abusive partner in a dysfunctional relationship, threatening and undermining – "You'll never make it on your own. You're worthless, you're weak. You need me!"
The following are NOT good reasons to leave the EU:
1. The claimed cost of membership – IF GB is the 5th richest country in the world then we should contribute to poorer countries. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
2. Migrants – As socialists, we argue for open borders – all are equal. More about EU's Fortress Europe below.
And now, a good reason NOT to vote Remain
1. The lies about workers' rights.
Paid annual leave: GB law gives 28 days paid holiday vs EU minimum of 20 days https://www.gov.uk/holiday-entitlement-rights/entitlement
Maternity Leave: GB gives 52 weeks vs 14 weeks EU entitlement;
Maternity Pay: GB 90% for 6 weeks, £140 for 3 weeks vs EU entitlement of ZERO maternity pay; https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/pay
Equal pay – was law in GB in 1970, before we joined EC in 1973 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1970/41/pdfs/ukpga_19700041_en.pdf
Minimum wage – GB £7.20/hr for over 25's (although below Solidarity's £10/hr or Living Wage Foundation's £8.25 /hr)
EU: NO minimum wage requirement - Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden have no minimum wage.
European Working Time Directive: Britain long ago negotiated exemptions from this so employers can pressurise workers to sign away their precious rights to work no more than 48 hours a week. Cameron is committed to exempting British workers from every remaining positive aspect of the Maastricht Treaty's Social Charter, while retaining the worst of the neo-liberal clauses.
Good Reasons for #Lexit: Solidarity's Solid 6
1. TTIP - an undemocratic treaty being worked out right now in secret between unelected European Commission bureaucrats and American corporate interests.
We know little about TTIP and its evil twin CETA, as even MEPs are forbidden from taking notes of the TTIP documentation or photographing it. However, we do know that it will give American corporations the right to sue European governments. That is as undemocratic as it is possible to be.
2. Fortress Europe - Syrians, Afghans, Pakistanis and people from other countries are drowning in the Mediterranean and are holed up in festering refugee camps in sub-human conditions because Europe is closing its doors to people fleeing poverty, persecution and war. This is the direct result of EU policy. We say open our borders and let refugees in.
Can we afford to do that? Absolutely: we're the 5th richest country in the world, remember? There is plenty enough money for social housing, schools, hospitals, etc – it is just all in the pockets of the rich. Redistribute the wealth and eliminate poverty and shortages.
When we all have enough we will see an end to the selfish bickering about refugees coming to "steal our benefits/housing/jobs" (delete as appropriate).
PS – Scotland's population is growing more slowly that the rest of the UK – we need more working-age people desperately (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-20754751) – well over 90% of Scotland is uninhabited – there is plenty of room for housing and thousands of buildings lie empty, including 27,000 homes
3. The Copenhagen Criteria, built into European Law, require member countries to pursue and promote a free market economy. This inhibits socialism and prohibits nationalised industries
Tommy Sheridan's 2006 Bill to re-nationalise Scottish rail services was ruled in breach of EU rules as were proposals not to tender Scottish-government-owned Ferry services.
4. EU Humiliation of Greece. Greece voted in 2015 against to reject the austerity of the Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission & International Monetary Fund).
The EU has since humiliated, crushed and punished Greece for that and for the crime of electing a socialist government: pensions cut, wages slashed, massive unemployment, widespread poverty. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13940431
5. EU gives Israel favoured nation trading status, putting it on a par with EU member states. Far from welcoming Israel as a trading partner we should be boycotting it completely. Even Alex Salmond said "We can't have normal diplomatic relations with such a country – it's time to stop the diplomatic dance" (25/3/10) Humza Yousaf called for arms embargo to Israel 25/8/14. Even David Cameron called Gaza "the world's largest open air prison" (27/7/10).
6. We have seen what NATO involvement has done to Libya. It completely destroyed the country, facilitating the rise of DAESH, Al Qaeda and multiple roaming gangs of militia across the entire Middle East and into Europe. The EU and NATO have a symbiotic political realtionship.
So, crammed into exactly 1,000 words: reasons, both bad & good, to vote #Lexit.
Is Jo Cox Brexit's first victim or saviour?
Hugh Kerr argues that the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP should give us pause for thought before we cast our Leave or Remain votes
The death of Jo Cox has brought a tragic conclusion to an ugly referendum campaign but ironically may well influence the outcome in a positive direction. When I first heard of the death of Jo Cox I posted it on Facebook with the question posed on the heading above. I was immediately criticised by people for "politicising a personal tragedy" or "it's a mental health issue" or " wait for the facts".
Well, Thomas Mair was charged this morning with murder (17.06.16) and it's clear that he had far right links and had ordered details of how to make a gun ,and had used a home made gun to murder Jo Cox while shouting Britain First. If that isn't political I don't know what is, but as Craig Murray points out in his blog it seems that only Muslims can be terrorists in Britain! Now Thomas Mair in court says his name is "Death to traitors freedom for Britain" I think the matter is closed the murder of Jo Cox was a political act!
Of course anyone who engages in gruesome acts like the murder of Jo Cox may well be mentally unstable but this isn't the sole explanation. The murder was carried out in a political context of a vile racist xenophobic campaign to leave the EU and "keep these nasty foreigners out" or "take our country back" or any other of the vile front pages of the Brexit supporting press. This campaign did not cause the murder of Jo Cox but it did provide the atmosphere in which Mair committed his vile act.
This racism has poisoned the whole Brexit debate and the mood in England. In the brilliant phrase of Peter Geoghan in Bella Caledonia "A terrible uglieness has been born". (This of course derives from the great poem ‘The Second Coming’ by W B Yeats written after 1916 which we have been recently remembering). Watch the behaviour of the English football fans in France chanting anti-EU slogans and singing racist ditties against the Germans or any "Johnny Foreigner"
Listen to the hostile comments from Question Time audiences "we want our country back" -and by the way their country isn't Britain it's England. I spent 40 years living and working and in politics in England and visit London, Essex and Sussex regularly. It's clear to me that there is a sea change in the mood of the white working class in England. They feel they have been neglected by successive Labour and Tory governments (and they are right!) and they have swallowed the racist myths on immigration peddled by the nasty Brexit campaign and their tabloid backers.
It was brought home to me recently on my return from France when the Border Agency inspector said "I can't wait to vote leave and keep these foreigners out" I pointed out his job depended on letting foreigners in but he said he didn't care! By foreigners he clearly included Scots because when I asked him how Andy Murray was doing in the tennis he said " I don't care, I don't like him, I don't like Jocks"! The truth is that the referendum has in part become a desperate search for a lost English identity,preferably sometime in the 1950s!
The EU referendum is happening because of the deep divisions in the Tory party, Cameron thought he could lance the European boil by holding a referendum which he would win easily after all that's what Harold Wilson did in 1975! The difference between now and 1975 is that then the great majority of the political elite and almost all the national press were in favour of staying in. Today the majority of Tory voters and many Labour voters are against the EU and their emotions are being whipped by a racist Brexit campaign amplified by a vile press many of whose owners are foreign based exiles who hate the EU because it might threaten their profits or control of their empire.
Could the murder of Jo Cox make voters think twice before voting? I certainly hope so, I remember how the death of John Smith in 1975 helped to swing the electorate towards Labour because of the decent values of John Smith.
Similarly the contrast between the life affirming values of Jo Cox and the nasty racists behind Brexit might make some people reflect and change. I hope so, but I fear it may be too late, the polls have been steadily moving towards Brexit and many people have already cast their postal vote.
Recently in despair I put £100 on a Brexit victory and stand to win £400 if Brexit wins. I hope I lose but I fear I am going to win and we are all going to lose. If we do and Scotland votes Remain as the polls indicate then we must immediately demand that Scotland stays in the EU and we should initiate a demand for a second referendum on independence. After all if we can't win an independence referendum faced with the prospect of Boris Johnstone led "Little England" Westminster government then we will never win it!
Scotland is different, let us state it clearly, we are internationalists, we welcome refugees we are and always have been a European nation and we want to stay there. As a former MEP in touch with many of my former colleagues I can tell you that Scotland would get a warm reception for its application to remain, let's do it!
Hugh Kerr is a former Labour MEP expelled by Labour for his opposition to Blair
And if you've made it through all these arguments for Leave and Remain thus far, dear readers, here's a wee humourous satirical meme, just for you...
Socialist, practising Catholic, and regular Point contributor Rob Dewar argues that there is more that unites socialism and Christianity than divides, and that people of faith are deserving of more respect from non-believers within the left community.
"It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of people rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences".
Thus wrote a contemporary Christian of some renown, indeed, no less a Christian than Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation of 2013. Rather than scorn and mock Christians, socialists should embrace them as allies – for Christians were radicals and socialists long centuries before Karl Marx.
If I were not first a Christian and a Catholic, I would not also be a socialist - my socialism evolved and grew along with my sense of Christian mission. It is a deeply moral and principled socialism, heartfelt, rather than a doctrinaire or intellectual socialism, for it arises from my Christian convictions; from my Christian concerns with fraternal love, with justice and fairness; it arises from my Christian outrage at greed and exploitation and cruelty.
Many Catholic Christians, especially those in South America, are radicals and socialists today, even if they do not give themselves those labels. Pope Francis, who heads the largest of all Christian denominations (1.2 billion Catholics world-wide) is renowned for his criticism of unbridled capitalism: for his denunciation of the injustices and cruelties the capitalist economic system imposes upon those whom it exploits.
"Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labour is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment". Thus spoke Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to Bolivia.
Pope Francis makes a mockery of the lies that capitalism uses to justify its greed:
"Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been proven by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the good of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting". (Apostolic Exhortation, 2013)
This is the language of a radical. As is this: "This (economic) system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, labourers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our Sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable". (The Pope's visit to Bolivia, 2015)
Well known for his ecological concerns, for the well-being of the planet that is our home, Pope Francis repeatedly denounces the capitalist economic system for the damage it is doing to the planet. Pope Francis is a "Green" driven by a far greater passion than mere concern at the damage being done to nature by material greed: his is the passionate concern for the well-being of the planet that is a fundamental aspect of the Christian belief that Man is given authority over the earth and all that grows and dwells upon and in it, not in order to abuse and exploit these resources, but to husband them, and pass them on unspoiled to future generations.
Pope Francis is the perfect Pope for this generation of Christians, for Christians with a social and ecological conscience who recognize that an economic and social revolution is necessary. He makes no bones about the fact that his views are revolutionary, and must in fact lead to social and economic revolution.
During his visit to Bolivia last year he called the unfettered pursuit of money "the dung of the devil". He went on: "Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change". He denounced an economic system "that has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature".
Yet I (and other Christians like me) – socialists by very virtue of our religious convictions, as passionately committed to social and economic revolution as any Marxist – sometimes have to tolerate what we perceive as a broadly anti-religious, and especially, anti-Christian, perspective in socialist online groups and forums, and there are few who come to our defence, perhaps because orthodox Marxist thought is deeply prejudiced against religious belief.
Examples of this attitude arise often enough to make it difficult for me to single out any one example in particular, without making difficulties for myself within this online political community. For the most part I tolerate this sometimes barely veiled contempt for my faith because I know my history: I know how rotten and corrupt the Church was for many centuries; I know that throughout much of European history (though not all the time) the Church was allied with an oppressive establishment. I know too of the Church's recent gross failings. So I generally remain silent.
But in God's name, what is to replace the Church when it is altogether gone? A dreadful materialism, a salvation through "stuff"? It seems to me that socialists need to spend more time than they do in questioning the fundamental assumption that material blessings inevitably lead to happiness. And I say this whilst raging, along with atheist socialists, against the present day inequitable distribution of material blessings. I know that if you're starving, and homeless, and cold, you cannot come to spiritual blessings.
That knowledge plays a great part in my socialist beliefs. So, I – and the many other Christian socialists like me - must bite our tongues, for the sake of socialist solidarity. I never waver in my belief in the essential fraternity of Mankind; a fraternity that must be founded upon social and economic justice, and underpinned by respect for our planet and its often fragile ecology.
It seems to me that Scottish/UK socialists run the risk of failing to embrace a potentially huge constituency of political supporters. They often, in fact, do their best, not to embrace as allies those (Catholic) Christians who support Pope Francis' radical views, Christians who know themselves to be socialists and even, revolutionaries, but to alienate them.
This is a great loss for socialism.
Of the late, unlamented Tory Persecutor-in-Chief, I. D. Smith, it was common practice in the Tory rags to cry plaintively to his critics "You don't understand Iain Duncan Smith's moral mission!" (in the Telegraph; in the Times; in the Daily Mail), as if his critics were fools. In point of fact, his critics had quickly grasped the fact that I. D. Smith (and it seems very likely from what he has said so far, his successor also, Stephen Crabb), like any Pharisee throughout history, liked to clothe his mistreatment of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable in the language of faux morality.
The latest figures by the Trussell Trust show a 19% year-on-year rise in numbers using food banks in the UK; an increasing number of these are workers in work. Tory commentators like to claim that the very existence of food banks "spurs demand", and that this accounts for their growth in numbers.
It is poverty, ever widening poverty, that explains their growth in numbers.
The widening poverty that is an inescapable element of corporatist triumphalist policies, of an economic system that has terminated the last vestiges of "trickle down", and substituted in its place, "siphon up":- where all wealth is ultimately siphoned up towards the already wealthy.
The Social Market Foundation found last year that the average wealth of the best-off one-fifth of families in the UK rose by 64% between 2005 – 2012/13, whereas the poorest 20% saw their net wealth fall by 57%. According to research from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, income inequality has risen faster in Britain than in any other "rich" nation.
In 2015, analysis from Lloyds Bank private banking showed that Britain's richest 20% have more than 100 times the wealth of Britain's poorest 20%.
The number of unemployed people (by any genuine measure) is rising, once those unemployed people on workfare and work experience programmes are excluded (between May – November alone, 24 010 unemployed benefits claimants were referred to Mandatory Work Activity; between June – November 2011, 370 000 unemployed benefits claimants were referred to the Work Programme; the government does not count these two categories as "unemployed" in official statistics).
Once jobs that do not even pay a living are included, the number of people struggling to find genuine work sees a huge rise: jobs such as part time and temporary jobs, jobs like the seasonal work that prevails in the Highlands, and zero hours contract work. The greatest number of workers in zero hours work is found in the hotels and leisure industry – a sector that dominates in the Scottish Highlands. In that region, such work is also seasonal.
In September 2015 the Office for National Statistics reported that the number of workers in zero hours contract work had risen by 19%. A study published by the TUC in December 2014 showed that average weekly earnings for zero hours contract workers were £188, compared with £479 for permanent workers; in other words, as the number of workers on zero hours contracts rises, so the number of workers earning less also rises.
The Tories, either trashing or ignoring the message of critics such as Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury (and in less targeted and possibly more general terms, Pope Francis also, with his relentless criticism of contemporary super-capitalism), continue to address themselves to the so-called "aspirational class". The harsh truth is that an increasing number of people in Britain no longer "aspire" to anything but mere survival in the face of a corporatist system whose entire aim is to separate them from the prospects of material progress.
Under this system, the "free market" is all. The Tories hate the EU not for any love of country, but because they hope that such few regulations as still apply to an extremely de-regulated free market system will be gotten rid of once Britain quits the EU.
Under this system, everything - absolutely everything, including the NHS, every last public service, the last remaining assets held by the Commonweal, the unemployed (with corporations such as Maximus exploiting DWP contracts to "train" unemployed benefits claimants), the gambling addicts, those in work who simply cannot make ends meet (this explains the huge growth in numbers of loan shark outfits advertising on TV since the Tories seized power in May 2010: the payday lending business was worth a little over £100 million in 2004; it was worth between £2 - £4 billion in 2013 ) – every last area of life in contemporary Britain, must be subjected to the free market, and made to turn a profit for the few.
Under the highly unregulated, and extremely predatory, free market economic system that the Tories promote, an increasing number of people are beginning to realise that their children and grand children are very unlikely to own their own homes - let alone own a cottage in the countryside.
An increasing number of young professionals realise that whilst they themselves were fortunate enough to attend private schools (riding on the back of the economic boom: the job security, the guaranteed pensions, the free college education, and the low property prices that their parents' generation enjoyed), they will not be able to afford to send their own children to private schools.
An increasing number of youngsters realise that the odds against them even landing a genuine full time job that merely pays a living, are slim.
An increasing number of people realise that their own children will not know what it was like to grow up in a well-heated family home that was owned by their parents. According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, in 2001, 2.3 million householders in the UK were renting their homes; by 2014 there were 5.4 million; it is estimated that by 2025 this figure will rise to 7.2 million.
An increasing number of workers realise that they will not retire with a pension - and they understand that by the time they reach what is currently the retirement age, retirement age will still - for them - be many years away. This year, in what pensions analysts are calling "the end of an era", every single one of the defined benefit schemes being offered by the UK's top companies faces being shut down.
The typical British worker can now look forward to a pension (once state and mandatory private pensions are combined, and after tax) worth only 38% of his final salary – compared to above 90% in the Netherlands and Austria, and 80% in Spain and Italy. Only Mexico and Chile offer their workers a worse prospect for retirement.
"Aspirational"? Simple survival is the theme of this corporatist age.
But the Tories still make their pitch as if this were the age of never ending material advancement, an era of social mobility; as if these were still the decades of economic trickle-down. That time of plenty is past, except for those lucky enough to be born to wealthy families; those who sail through life cushioned from harsh material reality by trust funds; those who stand one day to inherit sizable estates from their parents.
Deservedly, the Tory party shows no signs of gaining the backing of the majority of Scottish voters - for all that the Tories are crowing that they are set to become the official opposition in Scotland, having overtaken Labour in the most recent polls. That this is so, says more about the devastation of trust in Scottish Labour, than it does for any swing to the Tories in Scotland.
By Rob Dewar
In 2011, just under a quarter (24%) of all households in Scotland were living in social housing, down from 41% in 1991. Within the same period, the proportion of households who rent their homes privately had doubled, from 7% in 1991 to 14% in 2011. Shockingly, average private sector rents are 86% higher than the average cost of renting a property in the social housing sector, according to the research by the New Policy Institute.
In a 2013 report by the Auditor General for Scotland, it was estimated there would be an additional half a million households in Scotland by 2038. Single person households over the same period would almost double. Earlier this year the Resolution Foundation warned that nine out of ten people under the age of 35 on modest incomes in Scotland would, within another ten years, find it impossible to ever own their own home, being unable to save for a deposit on a mortgage due to high rents – especially in Scotland's cities.
The housing charity Shelter Scotland, in its outline in February, has highlighted four challenges for the next Holyrood parliament.
Build at least 12 000 affordable rented homes each year for the parliament's lifetime, with most of these being socially rented homes.
Improve private renting by greater enforcement of standards on landlords, and more support for tenants' rights.
Put homes at the heart of strategies on addressing child poverty and advancing social justice.
Tackle homelessness with a strategy that includes better temporary accommodation and more support for the vulnerable.
Included in the range of social security (aka "welfare") powers shortly to be devolved to the Scottish administration, will be the housing benefit element of universal credit. The UK Tory government intends reducing social sector housing benefit; with housing benefit being devolved to Scotland, will the Scottish administration maintain housing benefit at the current level, or pass on the Tory cut?
The SNP has already promised to scrap the so-called "bedroom tax" – whereby only a percentage of the rent a tenant pays his landlord is paid to him in turn as housing benefit, if that tenant is deemed to occupy a home with more bedrooms than he needs. Going through Holyrood right now is the SNP's Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill. It is claimed that this bill will protect 700 000 people from the prospect of unforeseen and unfair eviction, and from unpredictability over rent increases. These claims are only minimally met. Should a private landlord wish to sell his property, the tenant, if asked to quit his tenancy, would have no choice but to comply. Should the private landlord's legally permitted annual rent increases ultimately cripple the tenant, there is little the tenant can do about it but leave, unable to afford the rent any longer.
In my view, this bill is if anything biased in favour of the rentier class – even if in extreme cases. yet to be evaluated in practical terms, it allows for the authorisation by Scottish ministers of rent controls to be applied by local authorities in "rent pressure zones". However, the SNP has scrapped the "right to buy" for social tenants – that notorious Tory device for whittling down the supply of social housing units by encouraging social housing tenants to acquire their homes privately. The SNP claims that this measure will prevent the loss of 15 500 social housing homes in Scotland over the next ten years. The Scottish administration states that it has made available 20 000 social rented homes over the lifetime of the current parliament – including 5000 council homes.
It seems clear that if we are to break the monopoly that private landlords currently hold in Scottish home rentals, the best way to do so is to hugely increase the supply of council housing; the creation of a mere 5000 council houses during this parliament's lifetime seems to me to be grossly inadequate. We all know that the Tories hope to become the official opposition in the forthcoming Holyrood parliament; as part of this drive, they claim they would build 100 000 new homes in Scotland over the next 5 years. I wonder: how many of these would be social housing/council housing units? Very few, I am certain.
The Tories' definition of "affordable housing" is a very broad one indeed. It seems to me that an investment considerably exceeding the £1.7 billion the Scottish administration claims to have invested in affordable homes over the lifetime of the current parliament must be made during the lifetime of the next – and the next again – if we are to match the greater part of growing demand for homes in Scotland; especially in demand for social/council housing. Will Scotland ever have a government that sets out to break the monopoly that private landlords currently enjoy in the residential lettings market?
I can but dream . . .
Rob Dewar lives in the West Highlands and is not a member of any political party. You can find more of Rob's thoughts at http://rabbiedeoir.com/