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ppp Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Passionate housing debate
Rundown housing
The housing is in urgent need of repairs
By BBC News Online's Thomas McGuigan

The proposed transfer of Glasgow's council housing stock from local authority to single housing association has divided political opinion.

The biggest urban regeneration programme in the whole of Europe

Jackie Baillie, Scottish housing minister
While the majority of political parties favour the transfer to repair and refurbish dilapidated stock, two parties believe it is the wrong course of action to take - the Scottish Nationalists and the Scottish Socialist Party. The Greens are also sceptical of a forced transfer.

As part of its social justice campaign, the Scottish Executive said the proposed transfer is an example of "democracy in action," which represents the best deal for tenants.

Likewise the Scottish Conservatives, Liberal Democrats support the strategy in principle.

Nats lead opposition

Jackie Baillie
Jackie Baillie: Effort to bring in finance

The Scottish National Party and Scottish Socialists disagree, and say that rather than transfer the council stock, it would be better to undertake a public sector housing finance programme.

Political passions are running high.

All the parties agree that the status quo is unacceptable. Glasgow's housing stock is among the worst in the UK and in urgent need of repair.

The question is how best to carry out the repairs required and how to finance the programme.

Jackie Baillie, Minister for Social Justice, told BBC News Online that tenants should have no concerns over the proposed transfer.

The minister argued that stock transfers throughout the country were at an advanced stage.

"The Scottish Executive, with a number of important partners, is striving to raise living standards through the Housing (Scotland) Act," she said.

"Central to this is our effort to bring in billions of pounds of investment while transferring council homes into community ownership.

'Success story'

"In Glasgow alone more than 80,000 homes are involved, and GHA's Business Plan outlines how no less than 4bn will be invested in the city's housing over the next 30 years.

"That represents the biggest urban regeneration programme in the whole of Europe."

The Scottish Conservatives back the housing stock transfer in principle "but have some reservations with regard to the execution of it".

Bill Aitken MSP said: "We are attracted by giving power to the tenants. The great post-war success story in Scottish public sector housing has been the Housing Association movement.

'Council has done little'

"It is the Conservative view that Glasgow's housing stock should be transferred and thereafter there should be a further breakdown of the stock to much more manageable units of around 6,000 houses at a maximum level."

Bill Aitken
Bill Aitken: Called for change to housing culture

The Conservative MSP said the ability of housing associations to attract funding from various sources added to the transfer's appeal.

"The main attraction of the stock transfer is of course the ability of housing associations to generate external funding.

"It goes without saying that Glasgow's housing stock is in very poor condition and that unless there is a major injection of investment in the years ahead, many Glasgow people will be condemned to live in housing conditions which would be comparable to the third world."

Mr Aitken said the council had done little to advance the cause of tenants and the transfer would help speed much needed change.

He said: "We feel that there has to be an end to the council housing culture. Councils have over the years shown scant regard for the ambitions and wishes of their tenants."

Tenant control

Liberal Democrat MSP Robert Brown said there was a pressing need for change.

"Glasgow's housing problems were built in with the bricks," he said.

"Under-investment and lack of tenant control has been a feature from the beginning, and the whole thing was closely tied to Labour's political control of the city - all of which produced a monopolistic housing system and a repairs system which was a bureaucratic nightmare.

Robert Brown
Robert Brown: Housing problem built in with bricks

"The failed municipal model of council housing, so closely associated with the Glasgow Labour Party (and paradoxically now supported by the SNP and the SSP) will be replaced by a community model.

"Liberal Democrats believe that the Glasgow stock transfer project can rebuild stable local communities based on decent, affordable, properly-maintained homes and we should go for it with enthusiasm."

SNP doubts

The Scottish National Party believes the transfer could be one solution to Glasgow's housing problems but not the only one.

Ken Gibson, the party's social justice spokesman, said: "The SNP principle is simple and clear - tenants first, tenure second. The wishes of the people who live in communities must be paramount.

"If the choice is local authority then that should be respected, and funding provided to allow this.

Ken Gibson
Ken Gibson: Transfer cannot be imposed

"The SNP position remains, the methods must be found to alleviate the atrocious housing conditions being suffered in Scotland.

"Methods of advancing Scotland must not, however, be imposed by diktat, they have to carry the people with them, and they must be brought about through consensus."

Scottish Green MSP Robin Harper said the "party supports a genuinely community based and tenant controlled housing association and co-operative movement".

"We fundamentally differ from Scottish Executive policy on the scale of the transfer and the source of funding and we do not believe that debt should only be met if the council agrees to transfer.

"A policy that is built on conscription is no policy at all."

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