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Housing

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th December 2013.

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Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

Presiding Officer, an unreconstructed contribution to a debate that has succeeded in clearing the public galleries.

One of the earliest interrogations—if that is the right word; it certainly felt like an interrogation at the time—that I found myself subject to by Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister was in 1982. It was about the mechanics of her right-to-buy legislation in Glasgow. The right to buy was a key, flagship policy in the Scottish Conservative election manifesto in 1979 and was hugely popular. Indeed, it amuses me to point out that it led directly to Margaret Thatcher securing more votes in Scotland in 1979 than the current SNP Scottish Government secured in 2011. That may come as a surprise to some members, but it is nonetheless an inconvenient truth.

Mrs Thatcher need not have been concerned. The right-to-buy policy was indeed popular in Glasgow and across Scotland. In the years since, some 455,000 properties have been bought, and in consequence, home ownership in Scotland has increased from 35 per cent in 1979 to over 60 per cent today.

All of that is a matter of historical record, but the huge transformational effect that that transfer of ownership had on the economy of Scotland is often left unsaid. New home owners invested in their properties much more readily and imaginatively than councils before them did.

I hear much said about the root of all difficulty today being the fact that the sale proceeds were not reinvested, but it is a statement of fact that the record of investment in much of the housing stock that was sold in 1979 was hard to perceive then from its apparent condition at the time. That investment by new home owners created jobs and in turn new entrepreneurs, who secured financial support that was underpinned by their new assets. They in turn established new businesses and created jobs.