Jamie original picJamie Glackin, running for selection to the regional list in Mid Scotland & Fife, and a former Chair of Scottish Labour, says house building should be Labour’s keystone in the May elections.


My local pub in Perth is a well-known watering hole for tradesmen. Of a Friday night, squads of them let off a bit of steam with a few (?) well-earned pints and talk about the issues of the day. I have learned that in order to understand what’s happening in the world, spending time in the company of joiners and brickies can be more enlightening than sitting in a policy seminar from a dusty politician.

My pals were never shy in breaking the cardinal sin of the bar-room – never talk about politics. The independence referendum dominated discussions, before and after. Almost every one of them became passionate Yes voters. They are all now passionate SNP supporters.

I don’t go to the pub as often as I used to.

But they all experienced the downturn in the construction industry and, if truth be told, not much has improved. Who could blame them for thinking that independence might be a magic bullet for their industry’s woes?

In the past, all of these people were Labour supporters. We had a proud tradition of investment in construction in Scotland, but that investment has withered on the vine of late. Scottish Labour needs now to be bold when we talk about construction, and in particular house building.

Because at the root of many of Scotland’s ills is poor housing. Life chances are fixed by the standard of the property that children are born into, way before they even get to school. If 6,000 kids are leaving primary school unable to read to the national standard for their age, you can safely bet that the majority of homes they live in are not up to standard. They might be overcrowded. They will almost certainly cost a fortune to heat.

Health outcomes too will be affected by the quality of people’s homes. Cold, damp houses lead to cold, damp people and that’s when sickness occurs. The strain on our NHS in winter can also be traced back to the quality of housing.

Crime is a fact of life in our most deprived communities. And at the root of it all is poor housing. When combined with low incomes, its easy to predict how all this turns out.

So we need to change it. Going into the May election, Scottish Labour needs to be talking about embarking on the most ambitious house building programme that this country has seen since the Second World War. There are over 150,000 households on waiting lists. Almost a million are in fuel poverty. A further 60,000 homes are overcrowded.

And at the same time, people can’t afford to get on the housing ladder, because prices are simply beyond their reach. Excessive rents mean that people can’t save a deposit so are stuck in private renting.

If we kick-start the construction industry the economic benefits are enormous. Those brickies and joiners and plumbers and electricians will have work for years, rather than living from week to week as many currently do. But there are so many more that such an ambitious policy would help – architects, engineers, planners. Local shops and burger vans. Even pubs!

If we are to have any impact in the election next year we have to be bold. And a good place to start is housing. Crucially, we will have the borrowing powers to do it. So lets get building.

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7 thoughts on “We must build for the future

  1. You could always go back to the pub and tell them Labour hope to build the same number of council houses that they built during their 8 years in office.

    Im sure if you remind them Labour built six council houses in those years they will be really impressed.

    The reason they now vote SNP and not Labour is because voters have long memories and they remember just what Labour achieved.

    1. Of course the statistic no-one mentions when trotting out this old attack line is that Labour built 20,000 housing association homes over that period. That was where the growth in social housing occurred. Now you can certainly argue that wasn’t enough, but to pretend that figure of 8 council houses is the whole story is not very honest.

  2. After the war with the country on it’s knees, around the time of Marshall Aid when we couldn’t even afford to buy the bullets to kill our war-time allies in Greece, we still managed to mount a house building programme through our Local Authorities; fields of houses and all for rent. Why oh why can’t we do the same again?

  3. Jamie what you failed to mention is how many houses the Scottish Labour section are proposing to build and meantime leading up to the Scottish elections it looks as if normal service has returned with the usual backstabbing and infighting the Scottish Labour section is well known for and Kezia is getting undermined by Alex Rowley with unofficial housing policy announcements and all the others meanwhile are fighting and backstabbing each other to get the list seats, and what with the polls forecasting a tsunami wipeout of all the other parties the Scottish Labour section included courtesy of the SNP it looks as if you will be going to the pub much more often to drown your sorrows. The hangover cure is for the Scottish Labour section is to breakaway from the Labour Party UK completely and to form a new Scottish Independent Labour Party cheers.

    1. The polls aren’t forecasting a tsunami wipeout for all the unionist parties.Such a thing is not possible in a part sort of PR parliament on a low 50s percent SNP vote.

      It should be remembered that the Lab/Lib coalition formed an Executive,not a government.They had a different attitude to the purpose of Holyrood,which was more appropriate given the newness of the parliament and the prevailing mood at the time.Policy was curbed by this.

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