An informed discussion of land reform in Scotland is long overdue. Andy Wightman’s article on Allt-na-Reigh was a start, but somewhat disappointing in merely repeating known arguments for and against the future of the tiny house in Glen Coe.
The main story is the shortage of good quality affordable housing and how land reform could be used to unlock what has become a chronic problem. Historically, governments of all colors have abandoned housing planning and construction to big developers. These wealthy corporations lobbied hard to protect their interests and succeeded in lowering building standards to protect profit margins at the expense of well-insulated and easily heated homes.
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More importantly, planners have favored large developments, meaning that only large companies have the resources to finance the initial costs of the land. This means that small local builders and self-builders are discriminated against. Is it important ? To answer this question, you have to know that the big housing companies often don’t build houses; they subcontract the building to smaller companies who must compete on price and speed of execution to the detriment of quality. Social media is full of complaints about the appalling quality of the resulting accommodations. Local builders have a reputation to uphold and self-builders are known to exceed minimum specifications for their dream home. This is a well-known path to better, more diverse housing.
An independent Scotland could ensure that housing is suitable for communities and allow young couples to afford a quality home using land reform to achieve this. The first step would be to ensure that the land does not become overvalued by the granting of planning permission. There is no reason for a landlord to hit the jackpot just because they need housing in the area. Land could easily be subject to controlled valuation using a formula of current use value plus a percentage increase. The increased profit potential that this would generate should then not be handed over to the builder. Construction costs are easily estimated and calculated and profit margins can be limited. The building permit could also require that a percentage of the land be reserved for self-construction. for example.
If this sounds overdone or complicated, it must be stressed that the housing shortage in Scotland has reached crisis point and radical action is needed if we are to provide enough warm, safe and well-built housing to replace the broken system. that we currently have.
I AGREE with Gerry Hassan’s Tuesday article (What exactly are we thanking the Queen for with this year’s Jubilee?), but I have to clear it up about 1952. Certainly there was the full employment, but wages were poor. My father’s salary was around £5 a week. He was employed by the Fleet Air Arm in Fife to repair aircraft; he left the house at 5 a.m. and returned after 6 p.m.
When I was 12, I was delivering milk with the cooperative, now Scotmid. I met the milkman seven days a week at 5:15 a.m. on school days and came home at 8:15 a.m. On weekends and school holidays we worked until 1 p.m. and my pay was 80p a week.
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No one had central heating, we had a coal fire in the living room, and also one in the master bedroom, but that was only lit if someone was sick. One of the few opportunities was emigration; several thousand left for England and the Commonwealth. As he said, there was less poverty but the improvement was from a very low level. The slums of Edinburgh and Glasgow were truly shocking. The poor have much more today than the rich in 1952.
Many parts of Edinburgh – Stockbridge, Canongate, Grassmarket and Leith, for example – have changed beyond recognition. Very few people had cars, only the very wealthy. I didn’t know anyone who had one. Holidays abroad did not take place.
The creation of the NHS was a godsend, but it was not like today. The wards had 30 or 40 beds, and the equipment is now quite fantastic compared to 1952.
They say we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. We all need to remember that.
I don’t know who Tasmina was talking to during the 2014 referendum but I can tell her that I could count on the tines of a fork the number of voters I was talking to who arrived at page 144 of the White Paper (Conundrum over pensions can be answered simply, February 9)!
There was no National at the time, so the vocal public and voters were left to the “yoon” press and broadcasters for their information.
What we could do with that time is concise, positive, and irreproachable responses to public concerns. Pensions, borders, currency, NHS and a vision that encompasses all of Scotland, young and old.