Parties debate social housing and devolution in Scotland

SFHA hustings in Edinburgh South
From left to right: Ricky Henderson, Colin Fox, Jim Eadie, and Phyl Meyer

Representatives from four of Scotland’s political parties debated social housing and devolution last night in a hustings organised by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).

Labour’s Ricky Henderson, SNP MSP Jim Eadie, Green candidate Phyl Meyer and Scottish Socialist Party spokesman Colin Fox took part in the debate at University of Edinburgh Napier’s Merchiston campus, which was chaired by former Scotsman political editor Hamish Macdonell.

Scottish Housing News live-tweeted the entire debate from @SHN_newsletter.

The five main parties in Scotland were invited to put forward their candidates for Edinburgh South in the hustings, but the Scottish Conservatives failed to attend – on the same day they launched a manifesto calling for Right to Buy to be restored in Scotland. The Liberal Democrats were also absent.

The Labour and SNP candidates for Edinburgh South – Ian Murray and Neil Hay – were not able to attend, but were substituted with fellow party members.

When each of the parties were challenged to commit to reducing VAT on essential housing renovations to 5 per cent, only the Green candidate Phyl Meyer said his party unequivocally supported the move – though admitted he would scrap it altogether if EU regulations allowed this.

Labour and the SSP both stated a commitment to building 100,000 homes over the course of the next parliament, while Jim Eadie defended the Scottish Government’s record on house-building and Phyl Meyer said the Greens had no target figure, but would build as many homes as necessary.

The panellists also discussed the devolution of housing benefit, whether the roll-out of Universal Credit should be halted, and how new fiscal powers for the Scottish Parliament could support the provision of more affordable housing.

Speaking to Scottish Housing News today, SSP spokesman Colin Fox said: “The SSP is committed to building 100,000 warm, affordable and green new homes for social rent in Scotland over the next five years as part of the solution to our chronic housing shortage. We have no faith in the private sector offering a solution. We see this as part of a growth programme, rejecting austerity – we need to make billions of pounds available for housing need, not profit.

“I congratulate the SFHA for organising last night’s Edinburgh hustings and wish them every success with all future events.”

Green candidate Phyl Meyer told Scottish Housing News: “I thought the hustings was well organised and went really well. The questions were good and the information provided in advance by SFHA was top-notch, a real credit to an excellent organisation.

“I was pleased to be representing the party with what seemed the best policy platform to match what the SFHA were asking us to support and it was good to hear the perspectives of the audience members that participated.

“I would strongly encourage the SFHA to run these again next year.”

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