It’s vital that Scottish Labour goes into next year’s Holyrood elections with a bold and ambitious manifesto.
Few issues need ambition more in Scotland than housing. With 150,000 people currently on waiting lists and private landlords pocketing more than £450m in housing benefit, there is a housing crisis.
This week I was inspired on a visit to the West Whitlawburn Housing Cooperative in South Lanarkshire.
Approaching its 25th birthday, the Coop provides over 600 properties and has transformed a community. I was talked through its colourful history, with staff and committee members who have been a part of the project since day one.
Crucially, West Whitlawburn is more than just a housing provider: its community centre is a lifeline for residents without a computer who need to apply for benefits; the concierges have a personal friendship with the tenants and regularly go beyond the call of duty to lend a hand; and the tenants shape their environment through an active committee.
They have completed an impressive renovation programme, built 100 new homes and installed cutting-edge biomass fuel capacity.
It is local, caring and successful.
The national housing situation in Scotland is a different picture, however. This year, the number of completed affordable homes has dropped by nearly a quarter under the SNP.
While 10 per cent of Europeans live in housing co-ops, the figure stands at 0.6 per cent in the UK. A report by the Cooperative Development society stated that cooperative models have been “largely forgotten by UK housing policy makers.” Going into next year’s election I want Scottish Labour to return to the party of housebuilding, like we once were, and aim high on cutting waiting lists and making communities more like the one I visited in West Whitlawburn.
Scotland has a housing crisis and it demands radical solutions: and it is by putting cooperative values first that Scottish Labour can offer the change so many need.
Richard Baker MSP is standing to be Scottish Labour’s next Deputy Leader.