Groundhog Day? Explaining 50 years of Failed Renewal

Yet the political problem here runs far deeper, for throughout the last 50 years neither the eradication, nor ever the amelioration of poverty – the elephant in the scheme – has ever been an explicit ambition of government renewal policy. Nor for that matter has tackling poverty been a core ambition for the host of different public bodies charged with delivering on some aspect of the multitude of renewal policies.” Douglas Robertson looks back at half a century of failure.

Clearing out innumerable files, documents and reports, covering housing renewal over the last 50 years got me wondering just exactly what has this endeavour achieved? While the specific focus here is on renewal, it is also indicative of broader trends across public policy, given that renewal has piloted the organisational framework which is now the basis of planning and implementing public policy throughout Scotland, through what are termed Community Planning Partnerships.

Image 1 Child-waiting-at-flat door 1971Paisley’s Ferguslie Park housing estate crystallised these thoughts. As widely reported Ferguslie is Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhood, according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). Well to be technically accurate, it’s the location of the country’s most deprived ‘datazone’, the specific spatial entity employed by the SIMD.

Poverty in Paisley has long been Ferguslie. As Scotland’s sole Comprehensive Development Project, way back in 1968, it drew inspiration directly from the USA’s then ‘War on Poverty’ programme.

Ferguslie has also been one of four ‘New Life for Urban Scotland’ partnerships, announced with much fanfare by Malcolm Rifkind back in 1988, when Secretary of State for Scotland. The other three partnerships were Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, Whitfield, Dundee and Castlemilk in Glasgow.

The Paisley estate had originally been built as a slum clearance development under the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1935. This Act, designed to tackle both overcrowding and its close association with tuberculosis, offered local authorities financial support to build new property to re-housed as many people as possible from defined slum districts.

Most large towns and cities in Scotland possessed such estates, each of which immediately became a deeply stigmatised place of poverty. We can all name them (and note the common usage of ‘The’ when doing so, the prefix helping to reinforce their social distance): The Butny, The Circuit, The Circus, The Raploch, The Ferry (Inverness, not Dundee), while not forgetting The Gibby. Then add in Blackhill, Barrowfield, Beachwood, Froghall, Niddrie, Pilton, Sandylands and Wine Alley. The list goes on. Most have been subject to a variety of different renewal initiatives throughout their brief existence, and a good few have been bulldozed.

The Butny, The Circuit, The Circus, The Raploch, The Ferry (Inverness, not Dundee), while not forgetting The Gibby. Then add in Blackhill, Barrowfield, Beachwood, Froghall, Niddrie, Pilton, Sandylands and Wine Alley. The list goes on. Most have been subject to a variety of different renewal initiatives throughout their brief existence, and a good few have been bulldozed.

Ferguslie’s checklist of initiatives suggests a ‘Groundhog Day’ quality about renewal. In fact, Scotland’s top 10 most deprived ‘datazones’, as listed by the SIMD, are found almost exclusively within 1930s slum clearance estates: seven of the ten are located in Glasgow, with Edinburgh’s Muirhouse in being the only one outwith the west.

‘Housing led-regeneration’, long the mantra of area-based renewal policy, initially came to prominence with the largely successful Housing Action Areas (HAA) program which targeted Victorian tenements, the last remnants of previous slum clearance procedures.

Image 2 Glasgow Tenements 1960 Core to the HAA’s success was the availability of substantial amounts of public money, expended on improvement and repair grants for home owners and, within the West of Scotland, the funding of community-based housing associations, which allowed local residents to collectively renew their own particular neighbourhoods. This process of renewal was greatly encouraged by the lifting of previous clearance orders which had bestowed on these localities a short-life expectancy, and thus rapid decay through what was termed ‘planning blight’. Public policy often creates, as well as solves problems.

When this approach was rolled out into, by then, decaying council estates, this essentially physical, house building approach to renewal was found wanting. Follow-on complementary renewal, found in the older tenement neighbourhoods, could not be replicated within mono-tenure estates, despite efforts to diversify tenure via small home ownership initiatives. This lead, in time, to the demise of the Housing Corporation, the government funder of housing associations, and its replacement by a new agency, Scottish Homes.

‘Partnership working’, the mantra emerging out from ‘New Life for Urban Scotland’ encouraged local government to better co-ordinate additional supportive inputs from various government agencies. Such thinking was embedded in the late Donald Dewar’s Social Inclusion agenda, Dewar proffered the term social inclusion, in contrast to the exclusion agenda proffered by Tony Blair’s policy unit.

Social Inclusion Partnerships (SIPs) thus became the latest area renewal variant, blending both physical building work and social projects. Again this was found seriously wanting, as laid bare in a succession of evaluation reports. In turn, this helped contribute to the demise of Scottish Homes and its repackaging into yet another housing agency, Communities Scotland.

Area-based renewal by the mid 2000s went into sharp retreat, being replaced by Community Planning Partnerships. This new arrangement required local authorities to come forward with an agreed, multi-agency approach, utilising the various specialisms and resources open to them, to address an agreed set of priorities within their particular locality that also needed to chime directly with the Scottish Government stated ambitions.

During their first minority administration, the SNP extinguished area-based initiatives and closed Communities Scotland. So for the first time since 1937, when the Scottish Special Housing Association was created, Scotland had no specialist housing agency. So are we now back where we started, at a time before the Ferguslie CDP heralded in an ‘area-based’ approach to renewal?

Image 3 Mother-and-baby-Gorbals 1970There is undoubtedly a clear intellectual logic to this policy drift, as a brief examination of the of the SIMD mapping facility reveals. Having selected a particular geographic area, click from the 5% most deprived ‘datazones’ to the 20% and observe how deprivation bleeds across the map.

Deprivation is not confined solely to the poorest places, a fact known since 1975 from the work of Sally Holderman. Poor people are not just resident in poor places. So any area-based initiatives can only ever be a sticking plaster, offering small palliative patches to those resident within a poor place, but they are quite incapable of properly addressing the actuality of the wider underlying social problem, namely poverty.

Image 4 Kids playing in Maryhill tenement 1970


There is also a related administrative logic. As noted above, renewal long operated in two hermetically sealed spheres. One tranche of cash – by far the largest – went into physical building work, initially focused on the old tenement slums. The second tranche focused on the social components, via what was termed Urban Aid, almost exclusively spent in ‘failing’ council estates.

Both funding streams were separately administered: housing monies allocated through the fore mentioned housing agencies, while Urban Aid monies were determined by the Scottish Office/Executive, in conjunction with local authorities supporting and part funding successful bids. The Labour / Liberal Coalition’s SIPS initiative brought both together, in the mid 2000s, immediately prior to the jettisoning of ‘area-based’ approaches.

Throughout this period there had always been much policy chatter about ‘working together’, ‘partnership working’ and ‘shared agendas’. The reality was, however, that housing monies funded renewal. Complementary cash rarely came from the economic agencies, whether the Scottish Development Agency or the Highland’s and Island’s Development Board, nor their successors. Perhaps Glasgow’s GEAR Project, focused on the city’s east end, and the Leith Project being two notable exceptions. Nor did social services often chip in, and health just never did.

Image 5 Unemployed worker Glasgow 1971So the move to a Community Planning Partnership model, where co-ordinated action involving a range of different actors working across social policy, to better tackle the challenges posed by local deprivation, or social exclusion, appears both intellectually and organisationally justifiable.

Sir John Elvridge, previous Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, is credited with putting in place this ‘outcomes-based’ model, whereby the government sets down its ambitions and then asks all those it funds to illustrate how they intend to meet these objectives. It is called the National Performance Framework (NPF) and yet, unless you work within a quite narrow part of the public sector, you will probably never have never heard of it.

This model of public policy planning is ‘operationalised’ via Community Planning Partnerships. This is where national ambitions meet local needs, where ‘top down’ meets ‘bottom-up’, where the government considers what the local authorities and their quangos are telling them what is required and where local government and its agents respond to the governments outcomes-based agenda, as set down in the NPF.

Local communities are supposed to have a role here, somewhere, yet no one is quite clear how that should best be accommodated, so it’s not. Community empowerment has always been far easier to mouth, than to constructively deliver on. Long lasting and serious concerns about the lack of a community input into this process, in part, explain the motivation for the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act, 2015. Even so, disquiet about meaningful public engagement persists.

Elvridge pioneered this mode of working when in charge of Rifkind’s four ‘New Life’ partnerships and, by the time he retired in 2010 this had become the modus operandi of the Scottish Government. So it was his thinking that eventually brought about the scrapping of ‘ring fenced’ budgets and, as we have seen, area-based initiatives, both logical outcomes given the National Performance Framework and Community Planning Partnerships.

Image 6 Single-end-tenement-flat-Glasgow-1971Yet for all the rhetoric wrapped around this exercise, of ‘partnership’ and ‘joint working’, as well as the need to ‘work across policy boundaries’ through focusing on tangible outputs, rather than public expenditure inputs, this public policy mutation is still not performing. After more than a decade it appears that drafting policy papers extolling the inherent merits of adopting such an approach is a far simpler exercise than challenging the deep seated organisational cultures and conservatism such a change of direction demands.

The core sticking point here are the deeply entrenched power structures, set within the long established administrative silos, that operate throughout the Scottish Government’s extended bureaucracy. Despite all the rhetoric of ‘joined-up working’, there are still no end of closeted professional elites whose existences are funded, embraced and protected within these arrangements.

This reality has never merited proper consideration, despite the Christie Commission, itself now five years old, because of the real power that exists within this part of the Scottish body politic. Administrations and politicians come and go, but the steady flow of public administration by the civil service continues to plod on, merely altering but at the margins.

Image 7 Baby in pram Glasgow 1970Achieving such administrative co-ordination is certainly no easy task. A useful lesson, though now largely forgotten, is provided by Strathclyde Regional Council, some 30 years back. The Region had set down a clear ‘anti-poverty’ agenda, in its ‘Social Strategy for the 1980s’. This had been championed by Jeff Shaw, the Council’s first Convenor, just prior to his untimely death. Shaw was a dynamic and committed social reformer, Labour politician and, one time, Church of Scotland minister.

The plan here was to secure additional resources for defined deprived places, drawn from across the different services delivered by the Council. Unfortunately, officials within the Council’s largest spending department, Education, staunchly resisted any reprioritisation.

At the same time, it’s worth remembered that many of the core functions that had a direct bearing on deprivation, such as housing, public health and cleansing were then being delivered by lower tier District Councils, while others such as health, social security, employment training and economic development were the remit of other bodies, each of whom had their own agreed priorities.

So trying to manage mainstream budgets so that deprived areas receive a greater priority has always had its limitations. There is the realpolitik of seeking to prioritise poor places over other wealthier ones, given the obvious class interests possed by such a decision.

Further, Strathclyde attempted this exercise during a period where public resources were more abundant. Within the current political landscape of austerity, re-allocating resources from an ever declining budgets becomes even harder. It needs to be remembered that it is the poor places that are currently being hit hardest when government, local authorities and other public bodies cut back.

So altering the administrative mechanisms to better redress inequalities does appear to be both administrative and politically problematic.

Image 8.Woman on plettie Dundee 1970sYet the political problem here runs far deeper, for throughout the last 50 years neither the eradication, nor ever the amelioration of poverty – the elephant in the scheme – has ever been an explicit ambition of government renewal policy. Nor for that matter has tackling poverty been a core ambition for the host of different public bodies charged with delivering on some aspect of the multitude of renewal policies.

Each of these bodies has a well-honed lexicon of diversionary policy terminologies, from ‘addressing inclusion’, ‘challenging deprivation’, ‘tackling disadvantage’, or ‘improving life chances’ which were tied to no end of differing initiatives emanating from the range of Scottish Government policy silos, always offered up on a ‘pilot funding basis’ before quickly fading and failing with no useful learning passed on. Why is it that policy never focuses on the direct causes of poverty, preferring instead to tinker at its predictable and well documented repercussions?

Given such clear lack of ambition, and with only housing monies available to fund the renewal toolkit for the last half a century, largely explains renewal’s ‘Groundhog Day’ quality. But it is actually worse than that, because with the prime focus being on renewing and replacing housing we have witnessed, in places like Ferguslie, the comprehensive replacement of the original 1930s housing stock, yet the locality is still Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhood.

Renewal practice is thus dammed to continuously repeat the same mistakes. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Stirling’s Raploch, yet another of the 1930s slum clearance estates. Over my working life Raploch has been subject to four separate well-funded renewal initiatives, as well as a pioneering joint initiative between social work and housing, undertaken during the late 1970s.

Image 9 Raploch 1992 copyRaploch, situated in the narrow gap between the Gowan Hill and the Forth, immediately behind Stirling Castle – once a royal residence – is still central Scotland’s most deprived place. But Raploch has been stigmatised since, at least, the 16th century, back when James V was resident in the Palace. Sir David Lyndsey, then also a local resident, in his play Ane Pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, refers to a coat made of ‘Raploch grey’, which in the satirical context of his work suggests a reputation for being cut from poor-quality rough cloth. Perhaps this is the same cloth the King employed to disguise himself when sneaking about trying to find out what the common folk thought of him.

According to Jamieson’s Dictionary of 1808, it was a ‘coarse woollen cloth, made from the worst kind of wool, homespun, and not dyed’. The adjective, Raploch thus implied coarseness, roughness, something Robert Burns drew on in his Second Epistle to Davie Sillar: ‘The Muse, poor hizzie, Tho’ rough and raploch be her measure, She’s seldom lazy. So evidently the challenges offered up by poverty and stigma run very deep.

Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology offers insight here. His core interest was with the dynamics of power in society and, in particular, the subtle ways in which power is transferred and social order maintained within and across the generations.

For Bourdieu the social world has been gradually drawn into what he calls fields. This differentiation of social activities has led to the constitution of various, relatively autonomous, social spaces in which individuals, what he terms actors, compete within for particular species of capital. He saw capital being broader than just being economic, although it is always dominant. Capital for Bourdieu was also both cultural and social. Each variant of capital is traded in its symbolic form.

Thus the social position of any individual agent within a given field results from interactions between the specific rules of the field, the agent’s habitus – the system of embodied dispositions and tendencies which organise the ways in which individuals perceive and react to the social world around them – and their individual ability to accrue these different capitals.

Within a field individual agents try and secure different capitals to enhance their personal position within the prescribed internal hierarchy of that field. We all know, to differing extents, the rules of the game within the different fields in which we operate, whether for work, play or family life. Such understanding is a function of habitus, the dispositions which are shared by people who have similar backgrounds: an amalgam of class, nationality, religion, education or profession. Such dispositions are thus embodied on each of us. Economic, social and cultural capitals, each of which also have powerful symbolic forms, hold a distinct value within our particular social habitus and within the field.

So the place in which we work, where we live, the house we live in, the car we drive, the schools and universities our kids go to, the places we eat, meet and socialise, right down to the clothes and games we play, and who we play with, all act to create our distinctive social placing within society. We are thus inculcated into knowing our place, how to protect our interests, as well as appreciate what is expected of us.

Such socialisation allows us to contend with what Bourdieu terms doxa, or ‘common sense’, the means by which existing power structures determine how matters should be organised. This can be understood as the ‘It’s aye (always) been’ dead hand of Scottish culture; robust social conventions that prove hard to break down.

Sociology to Bourdieu is solely about exposing the hidden, the actions and powers that function to both control and manage society in the interests of some, and to the disadvantage of others. This is how power is controlled and the social order maintained, both within and then across the generations

Image 10 Wallace Land of Pies Dundee 1970sIn the case of renewal, this field has long functioned for the benefit of builders, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and a panoply of public administrators, consultants and academics, and to the disadvantage of those subjected to such physical changes.

Yes, housing conditions do and have greatly changed, as is evident in both Raploch and Ferguslie. Yet, the underlying poverty, disadvantage and stigma, the social positioning of these places and their residents stays resolutely unaffected. The social order, the doxa ensures the structure of power remains largely unchanged. The different actors operating within the renewal field have each sought to secure different forms of symbolic capital which, in turn, ensures and reinforces their respective social position. But in the wider game that is Scottish society the odds are always fixed.

Marxist criticism of renewal policy since the 1960s (if not since it was first observed by Friedrich Engels in Manchester in the 1840s) is that structural issues, the broad economic system, determines a clear spatial ordering of wealth and poverty. As no one was willing to see, let alone challenge that system, then we were stuck with what is delivered. Within the broader political context renewal thus merely offered up a convenient piece public policy window dressing, a means to be seen to be doing something, while de-industrialisation and neo-liberalism significantly re-ordered both the spatial and the social order of things.

Bourdieu takes critical thinking further, as it exposes the power that lies within the social constructions that constitute the renewal field, as well as the underlying battles fought out by and between its various actors, each seeking out and securing different symbolic capitals from within that field to advance their own social positioning and standing. All public policy retains and confers power through this means, so there should be little surprise at renewal’s ‘Groundhog Day’ characterisation. And as the same approach is being pursued, with similar unreconstructed actors, now participating within the new field of community planning, the exact same outcome will be delivered.

So what changes? Not much really. Politics offers up but window dressing, and the administrative system contents itself with the available financial, social and cultural spoils that fall from this endeavour, whilst consciously ignoring the harsh realities delivered up by the wider system. Politically, as a society are content to hide away from the structural changes needed, because the interests of the powerful always decide how things should be.

Image Credits: The first seven black and white images were taken by Nick Hughes, between 1970 and 1971, in Glasgow, and are published with the permission of Shelter Scotland. The eighth and tenth images are by the late Joseph McKenzie, taken in the early 1970s in Dundee, while the eighth is by Margaret Mitchell, taken in 1992 in Raploch.

Comments (54)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Alf Baird says:

    “Sir John Elvidge, previous Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government” ‘retired’ to head up the formerly publicly owned Edinburgh Airport Ltd, which is now owned by offshore bankers (‘Global Infrastructure Partners’), the latter doing what offshore private equity funds do best – i.e. milking what is left of the Scottish economy for all its worth.

    “So what changes? Not much really.”

    Scotland’s major seaports, airports, energy firms etc, i.e. most former self-regulating public utilities are in the same ‘boat’, with offshore private equity ownership exploiting monopolies and inhibiting economic growth: see –

  2. Alf Baird says:

    “….the deeply entrenched power structures, set within the long established administrative silos, that operate throughout the Scottish Government’s extended bureaucracy. …there are still no end of closeted professional elites whose existences are funded, embraced and protected within these arrangements.”

    A rather good definition of the Scottish public sector swamp? And its failure to deliver.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Douglas Robertson’s analysis is accurate, Alf. But what do you mean by “draining the swamp”? It’s a phrase you have adopted with enthusiasm. What does it actually mean? What practical actions do you propose? Do you have a practical programme of reform?

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Glad to see you agree with Douglas’s analysis, Graeme. I do think he has well defined our elite public sector swamp, also giving a classic example of some very grim long term (half a century and more) failure. I am sure many other experts would be able to provide similar analyses of public sector failure in areas such as education, health, transport etc, much as I have happily written about ports/shipping state policy failures over the past couple of decades. Don’t you think there is a connection between this never ending failure of governance and aspects such as the same old private school/’elite’ university elites who tend to head up a’thing, most of whom have no idea of poverty or alienation (or even industry/trade), and appear to be lacking in much real sincerity/sympathy for social ills anyway, given the rapid shift of some of the public sector elite to work for the offshore money-men after (or before) ‘retirement’?

        To drain any swamp would require it to be flushed out and cleaned, I would think that should be obvious. Given the ever worsening public sector debt position, if government were a business it would have been dissolved long before now with its elite leaders on the dole, instead of picking up knighthoods and gold plated pensions.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          I note that Douglas Robertson nowhere mentions a “swamp”. However, you are clearly intent on remaining well within the safe but impractical territory of metaphor! What I am trying to get you to explain is how the swamp is to be drained. Exactly what measures of flushing, cleaning and purging are required? What is the scale of the exercise you envisage? Is it a complete and thorough drainage to the very bottom, or just a little gentle surface pond-dipping? What are the likely impacts on real human beings? If people are to be removed from their jobs, who are they and on what grounds? Against what criteria are people to be tested or found wanting? Will they be compensated?

          Or might it be that, rather like Donald Trump, you haven’t really thought this through?

          1. Alf Baird says:

            “What are the likely impacts on real human beings?”

            I take it you mean here the “impacts” on Scotland’s successive failed overpaid bureaucratic privileged elites, Graeme, rather than “the amelioration of poverty” for “real human beings”. Your compassion is touching, though unsurprising given the prevailing system (and where you come from within it) which “has long functioned for the benefit of builders, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and a panoply of public administrators, consultants and academics, and to the disadvantage of those subjected to such physical changes.” As c rober notes, this is a “cracking piece” which gets right to the hert o the maiter – i.e. “the interests of the powerful (elites) always decide how things should be”. And therein lies the ‘swamp’.

          2. Graeme Purves says:

            It seems you will resort to any deflection rather than answer simple questions, Alf!

            Douglas Robertson has identified a persistent policy failure. The sensible response is to analyse the reasons for the failure and learn from them. Simply scapegoating people on the basis of their backgrounds and loading sentences with pejorative adjectives is unlikely to provide a remedy. Power structures and vested interests are certainly at work in this and politicians and officials need to have the courage to address them.

            Silly slogans like “draining the swamp” are an idle and self-indulgent distraction. As you are unable or unwilling to explain what it means, there is no possibility of it being translated into a programme of practical action. The things that are needed are a commitment to address inequality and more effective democracy through radical community empowerment.

          3. Alf Baird says:

            Graeme, after independence the heads of all public sector organisations in Scotland could be required to swear allegiance to a sovereign Scotland. Applicants for leadership roles in Scotland could also be required to demonstrate a good understanding of the indigenous Scots language (sae thay micht e’en be able tae speik tae Scots fowk, ye ken!), in addition to ‘administrative’ English. Such requirements should in time clear out most of the unionist elite who have failed Scotland for generations. It would also bring us into line with most other states whereby we actually appoint heid anes tae public institutions wha hae a sincere interest in the development of the nation and its people.

          4. Graeme Purves says:

            Be carefu whit ye wish fur, Alf! A check against recent history can be instructive. The last two Permanent Secretaries at the Scottish Government were Sir John Elvidge and Sir Peter Housden, able Englishmen who worked very closely and successfully with Alex Salmond, helping to establish the SNP administration’s reputation for competent and effective government. Indeed, Sir Peter was so adept in the role that he was frequently accused of having “gone native” by the more rabid elements of the unionist press. Back in the late nineties, the indigenous candidate widely tipped to get the top civil service job in Scotland was the dyed-in-the-wool unionist, Jim Gallagher, who has recently re-invented himself as a “prominent academic” and political propagandist. I doubt that he would have been nearly as successful in the post, however comfortable he might have been discussing the merits of galluses and nicky-tams.

            As fer as yer proposition is concerned, A think ye’re in danger o pitten the cairt afore the horse. If our public officials are to be required to have a command of Scots, we need to have a standard Scots that they can learn. I would be delighted to see Scots developing its full potential as a modern European language. However, if that is to happen, it urgently needs a standard orthography. Sadly, the Scots language movement has set its face against that, preferring a model in which individual hobbyists haver awa in their ain dae-it-thersel Doric. Hugh MacDiarmid an Sydney Goodsir Smith must be birlin in their graves!

          5. c rober says:

            G Purves.

            With regard to Englishmen going native , in the employ of Holyrood…. Have you seen the appointments to the NEW Scottish benefits service? Including those with direct links to the much maligned Working disabled charities?


          6. Graeme Purves says:

            c rober

            You have provided a link to a lot of havers!

          7. Alf Baird says:

            You are starting to come across as a bit of a unionist establishment apologist, Graeme. I suppose you welcome the predominantly unionist Holyrood corporate body arranging eviction of the indycamp folks? What you might call ‘competence’? And what is wrong with a 2nd chamber to consider the drivel Holyrood enacts?

          8. Graeme Purves says:

            You’ve got me down to a tee, Alf! Spot on, as usual.

  3. Davie Park says:

    A tangential, but nonetheless worthwhile point: your piece, (and govt proposals) tend to focus on urban areas. The problems of rural poverty (e.g. Bellsbank scheme in Dalmellington, Ayrshire – bottom 5%) require specific attention. Isolated from amenity and with very low car ownership, there is little prospect of (even temporary) escape for many residents and a dearth of opportunity for diversion other than alcohol and drug abuse. Their physical isolation presents unique problems even for those with a determination to improve their lives.

    1. c rober says:

      Deindustrialisation , for rural Scotland , same as for Urban Scotland , but you are right there is different obstacles although the same problems.

  4. Ronnimor says:

    This seems to be a well-informed article and although I have no direct experience of administering anti-poverty policies I have physically worked in quite a number of rehabilitation schemes including Pollok and Easterhouse. In the course of this we employed several local lads who turned up punctually each morning and worked hard to assist the tradesmen on site

    Of course each of these jobs came to an end and it was simply not possible to continue their employment and it genuinely broke my heart to deliver this news.

    I wonder if anyone has thought of this poverty problem in terms of self-help instead of imposing the conventional solutions top-down. For example it wouldn’t cost a lot of money to set up a local builder’s merchant and a few roving tradesmen to provide advice and materials on a voucher basis to self-help groups who might then be encouraged to upgrade their own and their neighbours houses. As each phase or stage was completed a tradesmen could certify that the work had been done, new vouchers could be issued for the next batch of materials and the next stage could be undertaken.

    Perhaps someone has already tried something along these lines but I do know for a fact that given the chance the majority of teenagers living in these disadvantaged circumstances would grasp such an opportunity with both hands.

  5. c rober says:

    Cracking piece – same old hand at the tillers , just more of them really.

    Some of the UK have decided to think differently , knowing that housing is “all , as well as part of” the problem.

    Maryhill , doing cheap self build plots , could easily be expanded to create sites where council and private co exist – even to the point of the Councils being the lenders , thus part funding at the initial stages council supply – and through being the lender to the private supply as an increased income stream.

    Dumfrieshire doing the same with self build plots – where they are needing proof of personal link to the area in order to be sold one. Defeating , at least in the short term , HPI , self build for profit , holiday homes , and speculators.

    If such a desire is to supply affordable housing , aka gentrification lite , thats to say both private owned and social rented same site , then the solution is to remove those that benefit the most , thats the banks and developers , not the renters and owners.

    This is supposedly redressing the problems in action with the LDP , related to the CPP , and how the developer “donation” system works , where part of a private housing site , up to 25 percent has to be Affordable housing.

    However this is being circumvented in more than one way – offsiting the affordable percentage after planning is granted , cash donation ,or of course selling SHEDS as affordable houses – I kid you not , fecking sheds . This is now both council and Holyrood adopted policy – thus there is no donation at all by the developer , where the sheds are even more profitable for the developer than the rest of the site per unit , so its just increased profit where those sheds are 75 -100 k a pop for 1 or two bed!

    LDP too is flawed , so is AH when it is also used by the same people that created it , as both a carrot and a stick in theory but not in action – though it being defined by those in the “silo” exactly which is which , blurring the definition between social rented and affordable bought for election votes.

    In some areas this is brass necked SNP and Holyrood sanctioned profit making FIRST , and importantly about to be made easier by removing the “community aspect” of CPP within the LDP altogether via reform geared even more to the developers. If the community have the gall to actually object to housing developments – they have no legislation available to them for objections.

    Gentrification of some if not part of the areas in the article has happened , or profitable neighbouring others , through selling off land to developers by councils. ITs not ghettofication , or the corralling of the poor – its moving them on like some kind of housed transients.

    It is my belief that ALL HOUSING LEGISLATION is tax payer funded wealth creation , one only needs to look at former areas in Metropolitan locales that were 30 years ago no go areas , even for police , that are now the new hipster homes and communities.

    But has no one asked exactly where has the poor gone . they have been shipped out , urban instead of highland clearances , and this is perhaps just what the likes of HS2 will enable further – the wealth creation of the few once again paid for by the taxpayer.

    Perhaps then as the author mentions that there is neither a good solution or bad one , just a variation of the same theme then . Its only the wealthy solution , in that all wealth creation is on the backs of the poor then , both worker and unemployed alike , through those wealthy like them within our local and national government , both elected and unelected – that set and define housing policy?

    So the solution ?

    Now thats the bigger question.

    Perhaps it lies with AGR , Land reform , the removal of 7 times income mortgages , the insistence on timeframes for developers to prevent land banking , moving housing to councils made up of local residents for both affordable bought and rented , enabling councils as lenders and developers thus employers , or god forbid actually having proper Community decision making on housing and not just the lip-service.

    1. c rober says:

      THe future though for housing is here.

      Your transients put up in sheds , your affordable bought portion of LDP also as sheds , your unemployed put up in sheds , butlins meets deathcamps , and for the rest the likes of L and G becoming the nations housebuilder.

      £30 k for a shed in Edinbugh for the homeless.

      North Ayrshire 1 or 2 bed affordable housing , 79k to 99k. If you know how the ldp works the developer is meant to reduce the cost of a NORMAL house on site as a contribution , taking a loss , – however this is even more of a profit maker than the regular on site housing in this instance . I kid you not this is Holyrood and council sanctioned!

      Factoryised housing by one of the biggest insurance investment companies in the UK , with the worlds largest prefab factory. Perhaps then this is the drive to remove the private landlord , with his sub 8 percent ROI , to have the likes of l and g as a both a housebuilder and renter with returns of 12-14 percent expected annually.

      So why one must ask is this not being done by councils , factoryising housing , instead of contracting out to the same regional private enterprise to build houses for shareholders profits – not a return for the councils?

      Trough rather than swamp – who controls housing , the legislators.

  6. MBC says:

    I couldn’t make head nor tail of this article and found it turgid. Nowhere is poverty defined nor the success or lack of relieving it measured. It merely catalogues various government interventions without providing quantitative or qualitatative measures of their success.

    The poor need jobs, they need economic autonomy. Why is that so difficult to grasp? You can improve poor housing but that doesn’t alleviate poverty, it only makes living conditions better; a worthy aim of course, but doesn’t tackle the root – no jobs or low wages.

  7. Ian Kirkwood says:

    Housing poverty is the first symptom of inequality. When Henry George addressed a packed Glasgow city hall a hundred years ago most Glaswegian families lived in one or two rooms. What was the relevance of the swathes of open land surrounding the slums? The direct relevance of the land issue is key today as then. Until we demand the collection of the economic rental value of sites — generated when EVERYONE”S taxes are invested in amenities and services — there will be little improvement. Any other measure, such as announced in yesterday’s Autumn Statement, tinkers at the edge of the issue. Adam Smith’s Annual Ground Rent (AGR) must be assessed and collected in order to transform every area of Scottish life, including housing. See the Scottish Land Revenue Group’s facebook page

    1. c rober says:

      Ian can you do a FOIR on the hectares sold to private developers from Scottish councils since Holyrood came online – the great sell off is state sponsored.

      For these sites the majority will have increased in price simply by the developer buying it , and as you often highlight yourself primarily through land banking.

      PRE agr this is something that can be tackled in a single parliamentary session , by prohibiting the councils to sell off any more housing land to developers and by selling to communities instead….piecemeal or as CPP NFP housing endeavours.

      Secondly the Councils could be offering self build plots , along side social , thus part funding and keeping inclusion.

      A serviced self build 400m2 plot for 15k , means that the Scottish average income main earner can build a home , one that can be adapted , for under 75k including the vat reclaim. The national average wage x3 means about 75k , compared to the average houseprice which is 175k , so 6.5 x national average wage and rising.

      Holyrood internal docs on home affordability states that any mortgage multiple over 3 is unaffordable – yet it is promoting at the same time that the housing cost be the inflated national house price as a target base.

      Agr is noble , but so is change in the way we think of housing that sits on top of it.

    2. Doghouse Reielly says:

      Taxing and controlling land is the key

  8. Richard MacKinnon says:

    This is what I don’t understand. Douglas Robertson seems to know a bit about social housing so when he writes, “Given such clear lack of ambition, and with only housing monies available to fund the renewal toolkit for the last half a century, largely explains renewal’s ‘Groundhog Day’ quality” what am I missing here?
    Take for an example a housing association with say 1000 properties, that is probably a small one. (GHA has I think 55,000 units). 1000x average monthly rent say 300x 12 = 3.6million/year. That is a lot of money. Scotland has over 100 housing associations. How can Douglas Robertson talk about “with only housing monies available to fund the renewal toolkit”.
    With the sort of revenues generated through rent receipts Scotland’s HAs should not only be building new houses they should be making sizeable contributions to Scottish government coffers. Imagine the profits a private company would make with 1000 properties to let.
    Can someone please enlighten me. Maybe Douglas has an explanation?

    1. Doghouse Reilly says:

      There is, as you say, a lot of money in Housing. I don’t have the figures for Housing Associations in my head but the 26 stock holding councils charge something just over £1B a year in rent for around 313,000 homes. Between them they owe about £3.5b in debt (some for historic build costs, most relating to improvement/modernisation over the past 20 years or so) About 25% of rent is spent on servicing this debt. That’s low by historic standards but varies between Councils from well over 40% to around 16%.

      Around half the rent is spent on management and maintenance, the day to day of running and maintaining the stock.

      The balance, around 21% (£210m) of rental income is what you would call a “gross surplus”. As a long term investment it’s pretty good value for money. Particularly when you remember that at an average or around £65 a week Council’s are charging between half and a third of private sector rents.

      The surplus is pretty much all reinvested in the stock. It has to be to ensure that Council homes meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard and achieve the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing by the current target date of 2020 (social housing is the most energy efficient part of housing stock though there is still much to do to improve it).

      Some rent money (less than in the recent past) is siphoned off by some Councils to subsidise other services. It shouldn’t be but it is.

      last year Councils invested £430m in improving existing homes and a further £255m in new housing. In doing so they added £170m to their overall debt.

      That’s the headlines on Council housing finane. If you want the detail you’ll find it here:

      It is a lot of money, but it’s all rent money, that is it’s paid by a very limited number of households, a substantial proportion of whom are poor. And they pay rent for a service, that is their home, not so it can be spent on other things.

      In this sense Housing is unique in the public sector, it’s financed from the rent charge to the tenant (not by council tax payers) and the relationship between the tenant and the Council is defined by a contract, prescribed in law and enforceable by both sides in the courts.

      Most tenants, when asked if they are happy to pay a higher rent to help fund new build homes, have said yes. That is one of the reasons why council rents have risen at around 2% above inflation in recent years.

      But there is a limit to how far you can go in taxing this small and relatively poor part of the population to meet housing needs. Apart from anything else it’s not very fair.

      The biggest part of the answer to the problems of our housing system is more social rented homes. That is going to cost a lot more than we currently spend and it will have to come from general taxation.

      The potted summary of local authority finance aside, the core policy problem that Douglas is hinting at but not dealing with directly, is poverty.

      You will, I’m sure have guessed that I make my living in the public sector “swamp” that is housing policy. I spend a lot of time talking to civil servants and others (good honest and caring folk all by the way) about how housing can contribute to reducing the educational attainment gap, improving the health of poor families, improving the life expectancy of poor people and even reducing re-offending by (mostly) poor people. This is what our politicians have directed them to do.

      I do not, however, ever get asked “how can social housing help end poverty” which is a shame because I would be able to give much better answers and the actions that I would suggest would make much more sense.

      Housing is a class issue. Our problem is that our politicians would rather focus on alleviating the embarrassing and inconvenient symptoms if inequality and poverty than commit to ending it.

      This is (in my opinion at least) partly because they don’t actually believe that it’s possible but mostly because to do so would mean saying to some very well off people, people a lot like them, and people who fund much of what they do, that they are going to tax their wealth including their houses, all of them.

      And there is a chance that these people wont vote for them or support them in future. Their political project is, it seems, worth more to them than ending poverty.

      Like I said, Housing is a class issue.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        I agree that much public policy is arguably a “class issue” considering the narrow social groups of elites who hold the power and who make the decisions and this extends far wider than politicians. I am not so sure you can blame the politicians for our ills, they are often hamstrung by permanent officials and the latter’s frequently inadequate policy advice upon which politicians often depend. As for the claim that politicians “focus on alleviating the embarrassing and inconvenient symptoms of inequality and poverty”, I doubt this very much as to alleviate the symptoms would require several things not least a significant increase in higher education take-up, provision of many more real well-paid employment opportunities, and measures to reduce inequality.

        1. Doghouse Reilly says:

          I did say it was just a personal view but we do have programmes to “reduce the attainment gap”, there is a lot of focus on access to higher education by those from “disadvantaged backgrounds” and a good deal of concern about improving the health of lower income households.

          It’s all about they symptoms, helping poor folk cope better (and cost middle class folk a bit less). All very worthy and who’s going to argue with it?

          Except that poverty cost the UK about £80b a year. If it was any other issue eliminating it would be seen as a huge spend to save opportunity. But I still don’t hear any politicians of any significance from any political party committing to ending poverty.

          As to the advice they get, take a look at what Naomi Eisenstadt is saying and tell me again that politicians never get good or radical advice.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            I rather suspect it is the dead-hand of permanent senior public officials/bureaucrats who will be blocking any take up or implementation of (“fer too radical”) expert advice from Naomi Eisenstadt. The masters of our senior public officials/bureaucrats are not necessarily the politicians (far less the masses), they are the privileged elites that they themselves are representative of, and as much of the article alludes to. Hence public policy in Scotland, so long as it is controlled by the same elite cadre of permanent senior public officials/bureaucrats, is always destined to fall short of what most Scots folk need/want, including in many cases the politicians. Hence the need to drain the swamp.

        2. Graeme Purves says:

          We are particularly fortunate in Scotland that our politicians receive a very high quality of advice from civil servants and professional experts, and that our public officials have a strong commitment to public service.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            Permit me a muckle grin at that ane, Graeme. Ye’ve nae shame ataw.

          2. Graeme Purves says:

            Ye need ti get oot mair an look aboot ye, Alf! On any objective analysis, notwithstanding all our failings and deficiencies, Scotland is a relatively well-governed country. To pretend otherwise is to play into the hands of our unionist detractors.

          3. Doghouse Reielly says:

            That is true of enough of them to make a difference in my experience

      2. c rober says:


        Simple answer for housing and poverty is to remove the WIDER poverty that would only trickle down , combined from bottom up?

        There is middle class families barely able to afford their homes , no doubt many will know of the reason why certain locales residents are called “spammers” , ie nice house but has to eat spam.

        Banks are advertising 6 or 7 times multiples now as affordable , while Holyrood states anything over 3 is problematic – thus technically sub prime , which was the reason for the financial crisis.

        But do we see Holyrood bringing forward a housing 2.0 , via rent controls , shared self build sites with councils ? No . There is many different ways to remove poverty related to housing . But for me Holyrood is an enabler for the wealthy when it comes to housing – and not for renters or owners.

        This combination of upward house prices can lead to animosity we see today towards those that are poorer , aka poverty porn in the media , and the hate of those in new council homes , ie “never worked a day in their life council provided house worth 400k for extended family” media headlines.

        Of course the rise of the private landlord , just like most housing legislation for the private and rented market supply , only feeds the banks and restricts the market further – increasing prices as well as reducing availability.

        This while there is a block in the supply on certain kinds of rentable housing in most LA’s , one thats created with over occupancy due to no alternative placing , more so with pensioners housed in 2nd storey urban apartments , whom are now unable to get out due to older style housing lacking disabled aids like lifts – especially those unable to fit a scooter.

        Scotland has no firm solution in place for both private bought and social rented gated retirement communities for this increasing demographic locally , importantly when the population of Scotland will be predominately pensioner over the next 30 years.

        This is the time to invest in such , where care needs are rising , increasing the strain on the Council budgets , yet we have an opportunity to deliver lower costs through rethinking this sector in housing – with a positive byproduct too of freeing up ALL housing through shared site housing and localised care cost being reduced.

        By investment and forethought this single action can release LA housing , private bought , and rented to the market….. What does capitalism tell us about over supply again? IT drives down prices , but as our housing is controlled , by banks , developers , councils and even Holyrood , then perhaps it should be locally controlled instead?

        This local control is where CPP , NFP housing partnerships is promised , but is not delivered , more so with LDP and private developments.

        LDP is part of the problem also , yet is portrayed as the solution.

        In its mandate the LDP is using the “donation” portion of sites for developers to get planning agreed FOR THEM , over any community need , especially where they otherwise would never be able to get normal planning outwith the LDP .IE for green sites , national forests and even prime grade one farmland , all of that preventative legislation is circumvented via the LDP the moment a site is added.

        I have found there is deliberate misleading and enabling on this from our Legislators , in numerous ways the developer can avoid entirely , partially , locally , the affordable portion – or even make a profit on it much higher than that on the non affordable portion….. via using sheds.

        To add insult to injury the new LDP review suggests removing even more blocks for developers in the planning process. This is on top of the original documentation that states categorically that the LDP when formed was to subsidise house builders.

        Therefore this Holyrood clone of Tory Westminster policy was not created to supply housing solutions per se , or to enable community decision making , but for wealth creation via the mulitple lies of Affordable housing/creating local employment . Site surveys of even council delivered work sites for Social rented homes show that the majority of trades involved are commuters , not locals , which surely is also the norm in private building also.

        By using the HNDA (housing need and demand surveys) supplied by a local council , then land can be added to a longer term “regional” Local Development plan over “Localised” community objection , thus executive housing is forced on areas without any need at all – and importantly outwith the URBAN locale that has the need , even when its a detriment impact on local services to the rural locale site in doing so.

        1. Doghouse Reielly says:

          Ask the folk than run the housing associations in Glasgow they will tell you they are the very definition of community controlled and locally driven.

  9. MBC says:

    You make a good point Richard about the critical detail being missing and I will leave Douglas Robertson to reply, but presumably housing associations need money to operate as organisations? The rent yield isn’t profit. They will have their own staff costs plus pensions plus their offices to cover, then there will be professional fees and repairs, then of course some tenants will be in arrears. I believe that when GVA took over from the City of Glasgow they inherited the rent arrears debt, which they will have to finance somehow.

    1. Richard MacKinnon says:

      I know nothing about social housing unlike Douglas Robertson or Doghouse above. And I appreciate housing associations have overheads, but I cant understand why new builds cannot be financed from rent returns.
      For the sake of argument stick with the example of a HA with a 1000 units and an income from rent at 3.6 million/year. How many change of tenancies do they deal with in a year? 1:25? (I bet its nearer 1:70) But lets say 1:20. That is 50/year or 1 per week. Cost to carry out repairs involved in a change of tenancy say £1000 each change over= 50K.
      Maintenance costs per unit? I don’t have a clue but say £700/unit = 700k.
      Staff costs. A technical team to deal with faults and contractors. (assume repairs are contracted out, i.e. no direct labour). Finance team to administrate contractors invoices. A HR team. An IT guy. A couple of managers. In total 20 staff? say 25. Average salary 25K? say 30 = 600K.
      Office costs and some transport? I don’t have a clue, say 100k. Total = 1.45m.
      3.6 – 1.45= 2.15m.
      Housing Associations and councils own a lot of brown field sites in Scotland’s towns and cities. There are over 100 HAs in Scotland. You see my point.

      1. c rober says:

        Richard M

        Land , suggest that if your really interested google the Derelict land survey – should be a Holyrood doc.

        Housing asc and council incomes , housing starts and finishes of private and social have a similar document.

        There is more than anyone might think of council owned across Scotland – then you can also cross reference this to LA Council land holdings maps – which will show ownership and recent sell offs.

        You also have to consider sites like former Schools on top , where this is prime residential land , nearly always sold off to developers – reducing the available land and increasing price. This when you have the LDP using premium farm land being used instead through the LDP.

        When I did my investigations into the LDP in NAC I found that there was something like 1360 HECTARES of derelict land , not including the future hectares from School amalgamations. It was if memory serves right second by area in Scotland , and also the highest recipient of grants from Holyrood for its reuse.

        Yet all of the sites for future housing need , nearly always private bought not social rented , were outwith these non polluted brownfield sites , apart from the likes of Stevenston and Ardrossan where Social rented is to be built on cancer causing toxic land – ignoring the community that want housing that objected to its use.

        To add further insult to injury former industrial estates and warehouse sites sit empty – as the council builds new ones through the likes of Irvine bay regen , its soon replacement , and the Ayrshire new deal. More troughs.

        There is method in your madness regarding your input , particularly contractors , and may I say that through the removal of councils as employers and landlords , and into NFP housing associations and contractors , that we have only increased the mouths in the trough for the few as a result , ie the middle managers and directors …. and not those NFP housing is to be the benefit of?

        Hardly the increase in local employment , when those that run said bodies rarely if ever live in the locale – So there alone is something that should be part of the job – living locally , perhaps subsidised …. just like when councils were in their heyday , and anyone not degree educated lived in the same street.

        Instead , today those workers , many of whom no doubt are keenly interested in the betterment of the area , simply clock off and go back to their suburban private developer built homes – the residents , their employers technically , cannot clock off from being residents.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          How many troughs are in this swamp? Seems like virtually every public policy decision leads to another trough at which Scotland’s trougher-elite can be found trochin-awa blythe as swein pirlin in shyte.

        2. Richard MacKinnon says:

          c rober,
          Why run NPF (and I assume that means not for profit) housing associations when we should be making a good profit from the rented public housing sector? This can be used for new builds. That HAs are not doing this presently is a scandel. Where is it all going?
          Your point about working for a HA and living locally is a fair one but in reality it is impossible to enforce. So a non starter.

      2. Doghouse Reilly says:

        In short, your right both LAs and Housing Associations can and do generate a “surplus” that is reinvested either in the existing stock or in building new homes. It does happen. But it’s never going to be enough to pay for all the homes we need and landlords are increasing rents to keep it going.

        That’s not only not sustainable but it’s not fair. Why should 25% of the population (social tenants) pay for housing for other folk to live in (remember, tenants already have a home, some may get a move to a new one but most will not).

        And this is the social rented sector we’re talking about, not the private sector. Social landlords don’t have the option of skimping on repairs or improvements to push up profits.

        Bottom line, if we want more social houses (and we do need more) then the public purse is going to have to put some money up front. In the long term it pays for itself but the long term in housing is 30-60 years. Get it right and a house should last for a century. Most politicians and public officials struggle to think about things in those sorts of time spans.

        1. c rober says:

          Dont think the cant think generationally , but that they wont as its not in their interests.

          This is why housing should be removed to the local , away from those that benefit , either in votes or in pockets.

          Social landlords can get up to 50k for a new built unit , be that council or ascociation. LDP is supposed used to make developers fund by donation social or affordable bought housing , proving again the failure , which may be deliberate.

  10. MBC says:

    It’s true that the cost of brownfield sites is very expensive and when brownfield land is advertised for sale professional developers compete to buy it. Each bidder has to draw up a plan for what they would do with the site as well as a bid price and it goes in as a planning application. It requires quite a lot of professional expertise to play this game and probably housing associations don’t have that expertise and can’t afford to hire it, because such bids are speculative. Some councils like Edinburgh have ‘arms length’ development companies like EDI, wholly owned by the council, but acting as an independent subsidiary, and they can help housing associations to get a foot in the door when land comes up.

    Housing Associations seem to buy or lease existing property and maybe that is cheaper for them to do, and easier, than becoming developers themselves.

    1. c rober says:

      So why then arent councils doing it themselves , through creating serviced sites available to sell to HA or self build or private developer , planning in place , and materials supply agreements pre negotiated , thus being known and already cost defined? So housing supplied at lower cost than anyone would be able to buy from a private builder or developer?

      Bear in mind also that any self builder can claim back vat , as much as 20 percent of the total non labour and machinery hiring costs. So possibly 20k for every 100k , thus bringing that price down to 80k.

      I may have mentioned in another post , I have done the self build route , and have some contacts in the know as a result.

      My findings regarding housing , its cost , its restriction in supply being purposeful , are found from those years of research and investigation , and where data shows that Holyrood and Westminster political parties , local politicians from all parties , banks , developers , contractors are all in the protected trough as a result.

      Council owned planned , serviced , but sold individually sites , well this would mean the majority of overhead and unexpected runs are already taken care of , ie services , architectural planning , roads (which councils end up adopting even in executive estates) , everything basically other than labour cost.

      For a non council SUB 400m2 plot , serviced on the open market this can be from 75k to 150k alone from a private seller or developer , depending on location which either can command a premium or a lower price as a result. Then you have build costs on top , so 175k to half a million or more depending on spec for a self build home.

      BY the council retailing services plots at 15k using land it already owns , or retaining plot ownership in a shared ownership manner , it is in profit gains more than selling direct wholly to a developer , and further income even in a possible long term income generating manner being held on the title.

      This is creating in the process shared owned partially funded social rented sites , meaning a faster end to the pseudo housing problem , as well as shorter mortgage life through lower ownership cost. Importantly in a financial sweet zone , where the national average wage means a mortgage of 75-100k at 3x multiple of the Scots average main income earner.

      So its achievable for a life home , FTB , or a retirement one for a social rented or private bought downsizer , should the site descriptor be for gated on site for social and bought concierge micro villages – so reducing the social care costs to councils is also potentially a long term benefit.

      Retirement and assisted living in any independent Scotland will be a noose around its neck , so it is imperative to remove the gallows and the hangmen today – for indy tomorrow.

      This site selling can be varied further , where the council themselves are the shared owners as I mentioned – ie own the plot as leasehold rent as a kind of AGR , and holds the low cost mortgage as lenders of choice generating income , thus available to councils is open market source loans on asset pricing . This is where the UK is heading anyway for council funding , making them sell off land , and seek open market loans , where today nearly half of CT income is on debt servicing – Which would only result in further asset stripping of tax payer owned sites.

      OF course we can prevent further profit speculation by the banks and FTB through contractual resale price being , remaining , at the 3x national income average at the legislation level or build costs – hedging any downward trend of national average wage.

      The last time I was talking to a developer of a rather large Ayrshire development he was telling me about forward contracts he uses , by ordering timber frame locally in orders of 20 then the price to his company was 12k on a 2/3 bed bungalow. To a single unit buyer this is more than double the price and can be as much as 3x. His biggest supply problem just now is brick and block , and thats repeated nationally , long term contract use are the problem there , a dwindling number of suppliers – no competition , means booking manufacture slots instead of from stock.

      While this timberframe isnt the total cost of build , he has the cost of buying the site , planning and the sundries that come with it , the foundation , bricks , roof , render , doors windows , connections and plumbing including suds , labour and trades using contractors , and of course interest on the loans.

      Those properties will be in excess of 250k , and are considered affordable executive in finish , and also retirement (because it is convenient to care services). His profit margins need to be circa 12-17 percent , which they will be or higher due to cost of site being dirt cheap from original council supply , made cheaper through original developer going bust and all the site costs removed as a result ie planning and services in situ …. yet the original developer is now reborn as another developer , washed their hands of the site section article 28s – but i digress.

      Any council with the same land , say 15k price for the serviced plot , or .5 of the annual salary average can be an achievable deposit level , councils would get the same pricing for the timber frame as the developer mentioned above in bulk.. or even less. Or they could instead become suppliers themselves , using many of the vacant warehouses locally and creating employment.

      Using modern techniques like polyrender over timber , forward supply contracts for materials , means the same kind of bungalow sans garage mentioned above , as a self build or social supply , would be sub 100k.

      This can be reduced further to an ideal of 75k , through things like on site training of trades as an offsite campus , or part labour supplied by the home owner themselves at the finishing level , even to the point of free roofing as eco power generation via solar using legislation on the energy companies or again as an income through council supply – another proxy positive in increasing the target in co2 reduction.

      Important to mention here is that when COUNCILS and HA get a grant from Holyrood per unit for a social rented new build it is circa 50k per unit for part funding.

      The land costs nothing , and planning are already in house – yet the end supply completion price is the same as a private developer sold new home? So why not just legislate for councils buying homes on developer sites at a discount , thus cheaper as part of planning being granted on all private sites – along the lines that supposedly happens already with LDP?

      The cost of each unit in Scotland of a similar home I have mentioned , built by councils using contractors is 164k , they basically defined this on the national house price average. One only needs to google the councils/HA own reports on the costs – Now thats money in the trough when you consider how it can be achieved in less than half of that cost. Also has no one ever noticed it is nearly always the same contractors that get the LA HA job – yet no one bats an eye.

      Our politicians therefore are keen on the increase and amount of troughs , not on housing supply , if they were then they would be thinking exactly like this on AH , or defining housing 2.0 now pre indy.

      For every pound removed in housing costs it enters GDP rather than go instead to the banks , land owners , and developers – including their shareholders. GDP increase in an indy Scotland is a very good thing , profit for housing , through controlling in the interest of developers though is not.

      We have the ability to set housing build standards in Holyrood – but it seems they are not interested in setting its costs , be that rent control or on market bought pricing.

      IT is not an open market , that is if it is one that is held and controlled by those that profit from it. Until the day that our legislators treat them as the problem instead of the solution , then it will always remain that way.

      Empowering councils in supply , in such a manner I and others have suggested , rather than the increase in private visitors at the public trough is that solution. It should be before their politician bedfellows sell off all of the tax payer owned crown jewels that remain to them , by the back door.

      1. Doghouse Reilly says:

        couple of thoughts on this:
        EU procurement rules favour large companies, that’s why the same big guys get most of the work. There are now remarkably few small and medium sized house builders left;

        you spend a lot of time talking about how councils can help buyers. What we’re short of if social rented homes. It’s time to end the obsession with owner occupation;

        I don’t think Holyrood should be waiting for independence before they make a serious move to create a housing system that works, there is much that can be done now and they should be clear on their intent;

        The grant Councils and HAs get is a little higher than the figure you quote (around £70k for HAs) but still only around half the cost of the home (Holyrood’s much quoted £3b on new homes comes with a bigger price tag for tenants);

        Almost all new social and affordable homes are built by private developers, they control the cost of them too.

        But you are dead right on one thing, the big house builders are not on our side, they have no interest in solving our housing problem, they are making a great deal of money out of the current system. Our politicians are, however, to scared to be honest about this and take them on.

        And most politicians understand that house prices have to come down. Not one will propose a single policy that has a cat in hell’s chance of making that happen.

        1. c rober says:


          Thanks for the updated figures , so essentially they can with that sort of price do a full size 2 bed bungalow – but as I mentioned the houses preferred by councils and devs are over double that figure.

          Why bungalows you may ask , well it can be used by all market sectors , FTB , Social rented , disabled and aged , starter homes , new families , and importantly upgradable to personal conditions further down the line, rather than feeding the machine. Govt stats on social rented and bought also say detached housing is the preferred thus biggest demand sector.

          I know it sounds like I prefer , often argue for , that its bought housing – but it isnt that way at all.

          But it is my argument that affordable bought is of course on the same site as social rented , where social rented is part funded as a result of council sell of of plots to individuals , rather than whole sites to developers.Its the lesser evil if you will if councils must sell land , then why not cut out the middle man or mens profit?

          So with the site plot sales at .5 annual salary , or some other form of remuneration to create income from it , ie a land rent or agr as mentioned by one of our contributors , plus the 75k Holyrood donation , then this is achievable , a saving of at least 65k on current cost of contracted house building , which is based on todays council and HA norm price to handover.

          This shared site system removes social stigmas , the them and us – Of course the homes one rents today could be added to a new legislation of FTB RTB , lets not forget that a large portion of RTB people never moved on up the ladder so is a home for life.

          But I do acknowledge the non return of sales money to create further housing as the partial reason for RTB removal , but why no change in legislation instead of removal to enable the income as an empowerer for income and new creation instead?

          A new RTB system with prices locked as 3x multiple mortgages , ie cost to replace , rather than 65 percent discounts , and the council or HA being the holder of the mortgage , rather than a bank , thus their income increases – and also aids further building as a result.

          But I think we agree and know the problem anyway , that change in the way we think about housing is prevented , or that maybe instead is it deliberately protected?

          1. Alf Baird says:

            The offshore private equity owners of Scotland’s major cityports have been sitting on thousands of hectares of obsolete dockland for the past 2-3 decades, whilst developing other areas piecemeal at inflated prices to homebuyers and other users. Remaining derelict land in ports should be taken back and used for social housing, offering sufficient urban/brownfield land for thousands of houses to be provided. This would ease the push to develop at higher cost in the green belt which is largely to the benefit of certain other offshore/aristo land-owners. Jings, a’thing in Scotland noo seems tae be owned offshore.

  11. Gaelstorm says:

    I believe the main problem with this, as in just about every part of the Scottish quangocracy, is the absence of the socially disadvantaged in deciding what the problem is, designing solutions, and implementation of them.

    Not easy to do, but not impossible, with committed mentors, (preferably NOT from the concerned quango), and government action to ensure that funds etc would be neither approved nor released without evidence that this had been done.

    A useful byproduct would of course be acquisition of new skills and insights by all concerned.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      The solution lies in making more lawyers and other professionals out of the socially disadvantaged and relying less on the cadre of private school privileged elites who slide into top quango jobs as a matter of course. This requires focusing on the discriminating prevailing practices and traditions of Scotland’s unaccountable self-regulating elite universities.

  12. Willie says:

    There are a lot of things that could be done to alleviate poverty and increase the overall prosperity of the populace. But it isn’t going to happen. The current administration in Hollyrood, albeit better than their opposition counterparts, are every bit in thrall to the established vested interests. Like monkeys on the u joints stick we now have our third SNP government, who aided and abetted by a feeble, but well remunerated fifty six can deliver nothing save tinkering at the edges. It is a wholly unacceptable situation. Real fuel poverty in a land of plenty, food poverty, benefit sanctions, ports, airports, roads, bridges, hospitals, power generators all owned by private consortia making trillions and not one real bit of regulation from the SG. Indeed, consider the absutely holocaust of cold houses for over a million Scots of all ages. Why have we not regulated, or even considered inclining block tarrifs. First units cheap, next units a bit more, and next ones more again. Progressive pricing makes sense but not even a cheep from our powerhouse parliament. It’s like Scotland”s very own Potato Famine, but history does repeat!

  13. Willie says:

    Or take port capacity. Scotland has about a sixth of the port capacity that Ireland has. Our Port Authorities, sold off by Thatcher make and transfer profits across the globe whilst our ports remain under invested. So why no regulation.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      As a politician once said to me Willie, “there’s nae votes in ports” and that seems to be why our politicians have little interest in the sector. There is no such thing as a ports policy in Scotland and never has been. Yes, a coastal nation with no seaports policy? A great ongoing tragedy for the population, as economic growth depends on trade, and therefore on ports…..
      For more info see:

      It is also clear that Scottish Gov is primarily interested in domestic transport within Scotland (follow the budgets for scotrail, roads, ferries, buses), which means nothing has changed since pre-devolution and the same narrow (UK Home) civil service mindsets hold the country back.

  14. john young says:

    Graeme Purves “draining the swamp” would mean for me get rid of those bodies the people that enjoy a good wage from that have failed gloriously to create/deliver anything in the way of good forward initiatives,initiatives that would/could create reasonably paid jobs.There doesn,t appear to be anyone in government thinking”outside the box” we carry on with the same old mantra from the SNP as the failed Labour/Tories,can anyone explain to me how a country of a very manageable population of 5 and 1/2 million people and all the resources we need and then some,cannot be a most progressive well run country a country others might want to come and invest their/their childrens future in,could it possibly be the proven failed politics/politicians?

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Shouldn’t the focus be on developing and implementing policies which will deliver the results we want rather than pursuing some bizarre witch-hunt founded on a cult of resentment and failure?

  15. Derick fae Yell says:

    Turgid over-wordy nonsense that is strong on criticism and weakly none existent on solutions.

    Get a proper editor

    1. Thanks for your lovely comments

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.