Social Housing spending in England collapses under callous Tories while the SNP pushes on


I’ve reported numerous times on the increases in social house-building in Scotland, mostly subsidised by Scottish government grants. I know we need even more, but see:

Scottish Government increases supply of affordable housing and builds at more, perhaps much more, than twice the rate as in England

However, the situation in England is worsening dramatically according to the National Housing Federation. Despite one million on waiting lists, English government grants have fallen from £11.4 billion in 2009 to £5.3bn in 2015. The federation describes the situation as a crisis and points out that it makes little economic sense even from the government perspective with spending on housing benefit rising from £16.6bn to £25.1bn over the last twenty years. Housing benefit going to private landlords has doubled over the last ten years to £9.1 billion. This latter point might be where it does make sense to some Tories. See this from the Guardian in 2016:

‘According to Guardian research, almost a third of MPs are now letting out their houses or flats, with 196 declaring rental income on the official register of interests this year. The majority of those are earning more than £10,000 a year from the property, topping up their basic MP’s annual salary of £67,060. The Conservative party has the highest number of landlord MPs at 128, meaning 39% of Tory MPs are landlords, compared with 26% of Scottish National party MPs and 22% from Labour.’

At first sight, I don’t like the look of the SNP percentage but I suppose what we can’t see is whether an MP is renting out their only property or whether they have a portfolio. Also, the use of percentages for the SNP is misleading. The number will be around 12 or 13 compared to the 128 Tories.


People happier to live near wind farms than nuclear power stations. Researchers find out the obvious?

Torness nuclear power plant


Well, actually, I was surprised by the results.

A YouGov poll of 1660 adults with data collected between 12th and 13th September has found that most people would happily live within 5 miles of a wind farm or community wind turbine but that they would be unhappy to live within 5 miles of a fracking site or a nuclear plant. The survey was carried out for climate change organisation 10:10. Here are the figures

Unhappy to live within 5 miles of a nuclear plant                              62%

Unhappy to live within 5 miles of a fracking site                                61%

Happy to live within 5 miles of a wind farm                                       65%

Happy to live within 5 miles of a community wind turbine scheme   69%

I’m surprised that so many would be happy to live near a fracking or nuclear site and even a bit surprised they’d be happy to live near a wind farm. I’d have thought reports of clusters of cancer near nuclear plants would have scared more than 62%. See, for example:

In the Scottish context, there have been repeated reports of hazardous leaks at Torness and at Hunterston B. See, for example:

Are the reports coming from the USA about fracking health risks not making it onto mainstream media because, again, I’d have expected a much higher percentage to be worried about living near one. See, for example:

I’m even a bit surprised by the large number happy to live near wind farms given the many reports of noise problems and associated health complaints. See, for example:

The survey also compared the responses of Conservative and Labour supporters. Perhaps predictably, the Conservatives said they were less worried about living near a nuclear plant (55% to 69%) or a fracking site (55% to 71%). Now I’m surprised by these data. I took for granted that Tory voters expect nuclear plants and fracking sites to be located near the poor and nowhere near their leafy suburbs. I remember the fuss in my local area when the local authority planned to locate cesspit tanks near a relatively affluent (not effluent) part of town and after local protest moved it to a more deprived area. I couldn’t find media reports on it but found this kind of comparable example from the USA:

Scotland’s new social security agency jobs to be located in Dundee and Glasgow


In one of the biggest changes following devolution, the following benefits are being devolved to Scotland:

Ill Health and Disability Benefits:

Disability Living Allowance

Personal Independence Payment

Attendance Allowance

Severe Disablement Allowance

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

Carers Allowance

Best Start Grant

Child Benefit

Funeral Expenses

Cold Weather and Winter Fuel Payments

Discretionary Housing Payments

Some powers in relation to Universal Credit

A new agency will be set-up in Scotland to manage these benefits and the Scottish Government has already promised to treat those in need with a bit more compassion than is often the case in England. I feel sure the good folk of Dundee and Glasgow can provide the kind of people, with a bit of empathy, required for the jobs. The First Minister said on this:

‘Having powers over newly devolved benefits presents an exciting opportunity to create a social security system for Scotland that is fairer and based on dignity and respect.’

Though the HQ will be in Dundee the 1 500 jobs will be split evenly between the two cities to ‘spread the economic benefit across the east and west of Scotland.’

It’s good to see a bit of much-needed de-centralisation away from Edinburgh to two cities that deserved to benefit more from devolution. Personally, I’d have put the parliament in Perth.

SNP Glasgow to investigate Labour Glasgow’s past. What’s that smell?


Last year, Labour-controlled, North Lanarkshire Council were exposed by their own auditors for massive waste of public funds amounting to £20 million. The offences included paying one contractor £9 million for £1.5 million-worth of work. One of the council officials involved got a free Irish golfing holiday from one of the contractors.

However, this goes back a long way. I remember my late Dad, furious at our local Labour councillor for going off on a ‘fact-finding mission’ to some sunny foreign place, at his expense, in the 1960s.

More recently, we had a Labour council (Falkirk?) using public money to pay for the policing costs at an Orange Walk.

I feel sure readers from all parts will have similar stories to tell so the independent review launched by the SNP administration in Glasgow into the activities of former Labour administrations is none too soon. Needless to say, the Labour opposition is pretending not to be worried and, instead, trying to delay things by objecting to procedural matters.

There will be a social media platform for the public to make suggestions. I’ll be reading that. It will be good and juicy, I feel sure.

For a bit of history, see this from 1997

Helpfully clear then? Both Scottish Labour leadership candidates confirm their submission to London and trigger sniggering at SNP HQ


Photograph: Getty Images

‘No coalition, pacts, or deals with the SNP. And no second independence referendum.’

Those are the words of Richard Leonard. Leonard means ‘as strong as a lion’. So, he’s Richard the Lionheart II. Coincidence or dastardly English plot? He was educated at Pocklington School in the East Riding of Yorkshire. A private school presumably for people planning a career in pockling (‘cheating’ for non-Scots-speakers)? And that ‘no second referendum’ is a gift to the SNP. He didn’t even have to say it.

‘That’s why, under my leadership, voters will know that our support for Scotland’s place in the UK will never be in doubt.’

Those are the words of Anas Sarwar, millionaire son of a Pakistani regional governor, shareholder in a non-unionised, poverty wage-paying, family business and patron of private schooling. I laugh when he uses the word ‘socialism’.

‘I have never considered myself a Unionist’

Those are the words of Alex ‘Gary Tank Commander’s Dad’ Rowley. I hope he goes for it. He hasn’t rejected independence out of hand but a piece in the New Statesman said of him:

‘Rowley will run,’ says one insider, ‘even though he has ideas above his station.’

Ah, is that because he’s both a Scot and working-class? Though currently Deputy Leader, he’s clearly not the right kind of material for leadership of a Scottish socialist party then? Have you heard his accent? We need a millionaire or at least an Englishman.

Footnote: Remember this on Anas’ dad in 1997?

The fate of Glasgow Govan MP Mohammed Sawar, himself a graduate of Glasgow council, hangs in the balance while Strathclyde police continue their investigation into a charge of bribing an election rival. Mr Sawar has been stripped of his parliamentary party privileges pending the outcome of all inquiries and the Govan constituency Labour party has been suspended.


Daily Torygraph starts elite panic about land reform before a blow has been struck


Under the headline, ‘Lairds could be forced to sell off land by SNP acreage cap’, the Daily Telegraph warns its readers that the Scottish Government has plans to unjustly strip landowners of swathes of their land.

There isn’t yet any actual policy in place and many land reformers were quite disappointed by the relatively tame legislation that has been passed so far. In particular, the lack of a cap on the total amount one person can own, was heavily criticised. Many readers will know that more than half of Scotland is owned by fewer than 500 people and that Scotland has what has been described as ‘the most inequitable land ownership in the west.’ The map above is evidence of this. I find it shocking to see how little publicly-owned land we have.

What the Telegraph is exercised by is a job advert for researchers to look at how other countries have legislated to ‘limit who can own land and / or how much land any single individual or entity is permitted to own.’

Needless to say, the big landowners and their representative bodies have reacted furiously to the word ‘limit’ and are warning that breaking up large estates will reduce their economic viability and damage the Scottish economy. We’ll see if the researchers report that acreage limits have damaged the economies of Norway or Denmark, for example. I doubt it.

In European countries like Norway a country seven times the size of Scotland there are only 23 estates bigger than 10,000 hectares. In Scotland, there are 144. In Denmark, people are limited to only being able to buy 620 acres of rural land and must live in the country if they wish to buy a holiday home.

Nearly three quarters of Scots say they are not religious


I appreciate this may not be good news for readers of faith. While I welcome this news, I don’t mean my report to be in any way dis-respectful of those who do adhere to a religion.

A Survation poll for the Humanist Society (Scotland) found that 72.4% of Scots said they were not religious while only 23.6% said they were. This is quite an increase from a similar poll in 2011 in which 56% said they were not religious and 35% said they were.

Official Census statistics are based on a differently worded question where they are asked if they ‘regard themselves as belonging to any particular religion’ tend to return figures suggesting a higher level of religiosity and the Humanist Society have complained that this leads to religious institutions having too much say in society. This, they argue is especially true in education where Scotland’s churches hold the balance of power in local education committees.


The above map gives an idea, based on 2010 statistics of the degree of religiosity across Europe.