The Scottish Government often tells us how equal Scotland could and should be. It tells us that one in four Scottish children live in poverty. It tells us that the so called 'Bedroom Tax' will disproportionately hit disabled people. But have Scottish governments - past and present - practiced what they preached? They have given free personal care to the elderly. They have abolished prescription charges, abolished toll bridges, and so on and so forth. However, as most governments seem to manage, with every innovative policy that is a step in the right direction, there's a step which more than equals that in the wrong direction.
For example, the abolition of tuition fees (something which I've previously written about) is a prime example of this. This policy has encouraged universities to be more selective in whom they give offers to, which is not the rationale behind the original policy. This was to get more people from poorer backgrounds to university, and this won't happen when better grades are required, when statistically poorer children don't do as well at school. On the whole however, Scottish governments have stuck to their task of trying to create a fairer society - and this is why the abolition of Margaret Thatcher's policy is the sensible next step towards a more equal Scotland.
The policy is outdated and is not economically viable at a time when money is tight. The initial idea of the policy was a good one, but even at the time the delivery of the policy was flawed. It allowed working class people to aspire to own buy their own home. It did something that Baroness Thatcher did well, and it did something that George Osborne is trying to recreate now - it created an aspirational nation; one that wanted to better itself. Since the creation of the policy, over 2 million council houses have been sold off across the United Kingdom. It's not the number that were sold off that concerns me however, but repercussions of how they were sold off.
Council houses were sold off cheaply, and then bought back again at greater expense - a waste of taxpayers' money. This is quite clear, for even a person with a limited knowledge of mathematics and economics (me). Selling off your social housing stock and not replacing it is an inefficient and expensive model that won't work. Due to the distinct lack of social housing that has arisen as a direct consequence from the 'right to buy' policy, we are still seeing policies being passed by governments to deal with the crisis. The most recent attempt to do just this was the so called 'Bedroom Tax', which was opposed by all but four Scottish MPs. Very quickly this policy highlighted the distinct lack of social housing in this country.
The idea behind the 'Bedroom Tax' is simple: move people into properties that accommodate them, don't give them spare rooms. So, if you live on your own, you would be moved into a one bedroom property. This would reduce the number of people on the social housing waiting list, as they could move in to the recently vacated properties. However, there's a distinct lack of properties like this, so people have nowhere to be moved to, but they do have the government telling them that their property is too large, and they are required to pay some money back to government coffers for wanting spare rooms - or rather for not having smaller properties to move in to. This policy has faced a backlash in Scotland due to the nature of the policy, the fact that it wasn't voted for, and that it disproportionately hits disabled people. This has led to a pledge from the SNP, promising on the first day of independence that the 'bedroom tax' would be abolished; a pledge that I hope to see come into fruition.
With this in mind, at a time when the Scotland Office has allowed the Treasury to slash the Scottish Government's budget, it would be absurd - yet entirely necessary - to require more social housing to be built. If you're selling off the social housing stock, and there's a waiting list, where are these people moving to? The role of a government is to look after its citizens. Failing to provide social housing is a complete failure in the respect. So, if equality is the aim of the Scottish Government, it's taking the right steps to ensure this occurs.
Backbench Secretary of State for Scotland