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Housing and construction news

Housing and construction news

This week saw the Scottish Government agreeing with recommendations set out by the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing. Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil vowed to undertake some of the measures and also used it as an example to outline what the government was doing. We also saw the announcement by Finance Secretary John Swinney that he was prepared to bring forward several amendments to the Land and Building Transaction Tax. In a wider political context, the ramping up of EU Referendum coverage has led to the introduction of a new section which will outline key stories of the week. Elsewhere, the big political story of the week was the confirmation that fiscal arrangements – which have been discussed since March 2015 – had been agreed between the Scottish and UK governments.

Housing and construction news

The Scottish Government responds to Housing and Wellbeing Commission report

This week saw the Scottish Government agreeing with guidelines set out by the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing. Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil pointed to steps being taken by the Government to boost housing supply and protect social and private tenants included at least 50,000 affordable homes, backed up with investment of over £3 billion, over the next five years representing a 67% increase on the current 30,000 target.

Land and Buildings Transactions Tax amendments may be brought forward

A Holyrood debate this week saw John Swinney claiming he was prepared to bring forward several amendments to the Land and Buildings Transactions Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, including a relief when six properties or more are bought together.

EU Referendum – Weekly Update

  • David Cameron has named the referendum date – 23 June 2016
  • So far, 5 members of the UK Cabinet – and Boris Johnson – have declared for OUT (most, but not all, of the rest favour staying IN)
  • Scottish opinion polls consistently show 60%+ support for staying IN
  • UK-wide opinion polls much closer to a 50/50 YES/NO split
  • Nicola Sturgeon warns that a NO vote could trigger a new indyref. More on this below

General political news

Fiscal negotiations come to an end following months of dialogue  

The start of the week saw Scotland’s John Swinney telling MSPs that there was one “persistent” issue preventing a deal on the fiscal framework. Appearing before Holyrood’s devolution committee on Tuesday, he said: The reason for this fact is that there remains a fundamental difference on the principle of no detriment. I believe that no detriment means that our budget should not be cut as a consequence of the devolution of these powers. The UK government takes a different view.” Other problematic issues outlined included capital and resource borrowing and financial transfer administration. However, later that evening, an emergency statement was given by the First Minister Nicola Surgeon who confirmed agreement of the fiscal framework. Ms Sturgeon was eager to tell those in the debating chamber that Scotland’s budget would not be “single penny” worse off under the deal, which runs for an initial transition period until 2022.

Scottish budget passed

The Scottish government’s budget for the next year was passed my MSPs following a debate on Wednesday afternoon. The Finance secretary also announced a new 3% levy of the purchase price of second homes and buy-to-let properties. Other measures will include an increase of £90m in the budget for affordable housing for next year and work to begin on construction of the Dalry by-pass in Ayrshire and improvements to the Haudagin roundabout in Aberdeen. A reminder of the forthcoming review of Business Rates was clearly signalled by the Finance Secretary (during Wednesday’s Budget debate).  Timescale to be agreed after the May elections.

Oil and gas investment ‘collapsing’

Investment in new offshore oil and gas projects is collapsing despite cost-cutting efforts, according to a report issued this week. Oil and Gas UK findings showed that £1bn was expected to be spent on new projects this year, compared to a typical £8bn per year in the last five years. The news comes just weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron announced an extra £20m package to help the oil and gas industry.

Britain leaving the EU could lead to second Scottish referendum, warns Scotland’s First Minister

If the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union against the wishes of the majority of Scots, a second Scottish independence referendum will “almost certainly” be demanded. This was the warning from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week.

Scottish seats at Westminster to be cut under new boundary review

A review is under way that will cut the number of Scottish seats in the House of Commons from 59 to 53.  The move, which was outlined in 2011, will see the total number of MPs across the UK reduced from 650 to 600. The Boundary Commission for Scotland has until 1 October 2018 to recommend the new constituency boundaries.

Parliamentary Activity

Christian Allard: Trust Housing Association—That the Parliament congratulates Trust Housing Association on achieving ninth place in the National Centre for Diversity top 100 index, which was announced at the National Diversity Oscars event on 22 January 2016; notes that Trust Housing Association, a national housing, support and care provider with properties in Forfar, Arbroath and throughout Scotland, is the only Scottish organisation in the top 10 places of the index and was the first housing association in Scotland to achieve Leaders in Diversity accreditation; understands that the accreditation recognises Trust Housing Association’s all-encompassing approach to managing equality, diversity and inclusion; welcomes its work, which involves all levels and departments in the organisation through its dynamic equality, diversity and inclusion working group generating and coordinating ideas and activities as well as monitoring and evaluating its impact, and wishes the association all the best as it continues its inclusive work throughout Scotland.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please do get in touch with Julie McLauchlan on 07734 932 578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Housing and construction news

Housing and construction news

The Scottish Parliament’s short recess didn’t dampen a week of significant political news. Shelter Scotland’s wide reaching manifesto drew political backing including the Scottish Greens and Scottish Labour. Elsewhere, Scottish Labour reiterated its aim to place housing at the heart of its election campaign, a move which saw the SNP claiming that Labour’s housing policy was built on “very shaky foundations” in response. In the wider political world, a family holiday to France may have set back talks over Scotland’s fiscal powers while findings released from a forecast poll this week may spell bad news for Scottish Labour – and good news for the Conservatives – in the May Holyrood elections. 

Housing and construction news

Shelter Scotland warns of ‘generational gulf’ in access to housing and launches its Manifesto for Homes

Housing charity Shelter Scotland warned this week that a devastating generational gulf is emerging between people with and without homes that will only be fixed by doubling the supply of affordable housing. A survey released by the charity found that over two-thirds (69%) of people in Scotland think it is harder to buy or rent a home now than when their parents were a similar age. The charity also launched its Manifesto for Homes ahead of the 2016 Holyrood election to ensure housing is high on the political agenda. The four-point manifesto calls for all political parties to take action to improve the housing situation in Scotland.

An eventful week for the Scottish Greens

Not only did the Scottish Greens formally welcome the launch of Shelter Scotland’s Manifesto for Homes, the Party also stepped up its calls for action on the cost of renting a home. The party released a poll claiming most Scots support a points-based system of rent controls. However, all of this was overshadowed later in the week when it was announced that three Holyrood candidates for the Scottish Greens have quit over a row involving one of the party’s most senior figures. The trio resigned after being told they had to actively campaign for co-convener Maggie Chapman following a dispute.

Scottish Labour backs the Shelter Scotland Manifesto

Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Ken Macintosh MSP also commented on Shelter Scotland’s manifesto. He said: “Housing is now front and centre of the Scottish election. Shelter Scotland say we need 12,000 affordable homes a year over the next five years, and that is exactly what Labour is committed to.  We are the only party committed to that target.” If it wasn’t already evident, Scottish Labour has placed housing firmly at the heart of its election campaign.

Boost in Island homes under SNP

The SNP’s Mike MacKenzie, a regional list MSP representing the Highlands and Islands, welcomed a new comparison showing a huge boost to housing in Scotland’s islands since 2007. The figures which compare island homes built under the SNP against those constructed under the former Labour/Lib Dem administration show an increase in the number of council homes, housing association properties and overall number of new homes.

Swinney insists stamp duty replacement tax ‘on track’

The Scottish Government says its stamp duty replacement is “on track” despite it raising two-thirds of expected revenues in its first nine months. The government estimated the residential land and buildings transaction tax would raise £235m in the 2015/16 financial year. Official figures show £156.7m was collected by new tax body Revenue Scotland for residential property transactions between April 1 and December 31 2015.

The SNP claim that Labour’s housing policy is built on “very shaky foundations”

A news release obtained from the SNP this week stated that Labour’s first time buyers grant policy is “built on very shaky foundations” as figures show uptake could be almost double the level estimated by Labour.  Latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lender’s confirm that there were 27,700 first time buyers in 2014. The Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) have estimated that this could rise to 32,200 first time buyers in 2020-21 – before you even account for “additional buyers attracted by the UK Scottish Government’s Help to Buy ISA and any additional scheme in Scotland.”

General political news

Greg Hands criticised over holiday arrangements

The leader of the Treasury delegation locked in talks to reach a deal over fiscal powers has come under fire after going on holiday to France. Greg Hands had been due to meet with Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney on Monday to try and reach a fiscal framework deal. However, the meeting had been cancelled because Mr Hands had gone on holiday. In an upping of the stakes by the Scottish Government, Wednesday morning saw First Minster Ms Sturgeon then offering to meet Prime Minister David Cameron in London on his return from talks in Brussels. This seemed to work as an announcement made on Wednesday afternoon that Mr Hands would meet Mr Swinney on Friday morning in an eleventh hour attempt to end the deadlock. More next week.

Forecast agency releases latest Holyrood elections

UK Elections, part of The Election centre released its latest forecast for Holyrood seats after weighting recent polls to take account of local and other factors.  Their verdict suggests an SNP overall majority of seven seats with 72 MSPs, the tantalising prospect of Labour and the Tories tied on 23 each (a third down for Labour and a third more seats for the Tories), the Greens on six (up from two) and the Lib Dem static at five.

Scottish firms back the EU

A survey published by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce this week found that most Scottish businesses wanted to stay in the European Union. Figures showed that of the 456 members who responded, 68 per cent said they would back an ‘In’ vote.

Parliamentary Activity

The Scottish Parliament continues in recess until 22 February.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please do get in touch with Julie McLauchlan on 07734 932 578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Clyde Gateway Initiatives Continue to Support the Environment

Clyde Gateway Initiatives Continue to Support the Environment

A number of primary schools, volunteers, local businesses and the elderly within the Clyde Gateway area have all been doing their bit recently to help beat climate change and make a positive impact on the environment.

They have all been taking part in the R:evolve Recycle project. The intergenerational initiative based in Rutherglen aims to encourage the community to think differently about unwanted and worn-out clothes by learning from the experience of older adults in the community, helping to build on the skills of local children and families and revive the culture of make do and mend.

The project, run by Lightburn Elderly Association Project (LEAP) also promotes reuse and recycling of clothing and textiles with the goal of reducing waste to landfill, reducing costs of clothing to participants and reducing CO2 emissions through their various activities.

Activity to date has seen 896 people doing over 3000 swaps and collecting 5 tonnes of clothing and four local primary schools taking part in uniform recycling activities, re-use workshops and community swap events.

In total, 79 tonnes of CO2 emissions – one tonne takes up the same space as a 10m wide, 25m long and 2m deep swimming pool – has been saved through the activity and 29 volunteers have contributed over 1000 hours to the project.

Natalie Phillips, Project Manager, Education, Business & Community Growth, Clyde Gateway, said: “We are of course delighted with the wide range of participation in this initiative and I wish to thank LEAP for facilitating the project, as well as all those who have helped and volunteered along the way.

“We must all play our part in making sure that our environment is in the best possible shape it can be for future generations and taking part in initiatives like that of the R:evolve Recycle are one of many ways we can all do our bit.”

Wendy Russell, LEAP Project, said: “We have been gobsmacked by the response of our R:evolve Clothing Swap Shop boutique in Rutherglen. In the beginning the concept was strange to people as being able to bring in their unwanted clothing and swap it for something else seemed too good to be true, but now we are so busy that we have just extended the opening hours to five days a week.

“Without the help of Clyde Gateway we would have been unable to afford a shop in the main shopping area of Rutherglen and I doubt the project would have been so successful. The great thing is you don’t have to come from Rutherglen to use our swap shops. We have customers from all over Glasgow and the central belt visiting our shop on 47 Farmeloan Road in Rutherglen every week.”

More information on R:evolve Recycle can be found by searching for ‘revolverecycle’ on Facebook and Twitter.

Housing and construction news

Housing and construction news

In a week which saw a number of significant housing announcements including the launch of the Scottish Building Federation’s policy manifesto and the Scottish National Party’s claims that Conservative housing policies were acting as a “further drain” on social housing stock, it was the fiscal framework debate which stole the (political) show. The Scottish and Westminster governments still remain locked in talks over a financial deal to underpin new powers. SNP group leader Angus Robertson warned during Prime Minister’s questions that “time is running out” for a deal. This led Prime Minster, David Cameron to call for the SNP to abandon what he called a  “grievance agenda”, do a deal on new tax powers and adopt a governing agenda, so Scottish voters “can see what you’re [The SNP] made of”. The issue doesn’t look set to go away any time soon.

Housing and construction news

Scottish Building Federation sets out growth strategy ahead of Holyrood elections

The Scottish Building Federation (SBF) launched its policy manifesto for the Holyrood elections in May setting out a five pillar plan for sustainable growth in the Scottish construction sector. The manifesto sets out policy recommendations to support the industry in key areas including training, procurement, skills, planning and building control, capital investment and energy efficiency.  Later in the week, the Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland (ICE) challenged policy-makers to sign-up to a pledge supporting infrastructure maintenance, development and delivery for the benefit of Scotland as it issued its Manifesto for Infrastructure: Scotland 2016.

The SNP pour scorn on Conservative housing policy

An SNP news release this week described the Tory government’s housing policies as a “further drain” on social housing stock. This coincided with a report published on Wednesday by the Communities and Local Government committee which the SNP claims disagrees with the UK government’s proposals to fund the Right to Buy scheme with the proceeds from the sale of high value council homes.

UK Construction figures revised downwards

Slower UK economic growth led to a downward revision in the latest forecast for UK construction growth from the Construction Products Association this week.

MSPs back second home charge plan

An added charge for buy-to-let properties and second homes was supported by MSPs this week. Holyrood’s Finance Committee backed a new supplement of 3% of the total price of properties over £40,000 as part of their deliberations on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.  The contentious Bill is due to complete its second (middle) stage at Holyrood on 26 February.

Tweet of the week

Could a tweet by Daniel Raven-Ellison, a London based environmentalist, soon become Green Party policy? Mr Raven-Ellison tweeted: ‘Would you support a policy for all new builds in London to include #BirdBricks #BugHotels #HedghogHoles as standard?’ It remains to be seen whether the Green Party north of the border will pick up on his new build aspirations.

General political news

Fiscal framework still to be agreed

Talks aimed at ending a dispute over the financial arrangements to accompany the Scotland Bill broke up without agreement following a meeting on Wednesday morning.  Deputy First Minister John Swinney and UK Treasury minister Greg Hands met in Edinburgh to discuss the issue with both claiming that they were still open to finding a solution despite the lack of progress to date.

Scottish local authorities accept funding deal . . . just

All 32 local authorities in Scotland have accepted the Scottish government’s funding deal worth £10.3bn. However, the deal become a thorn in the side of the SNP and a political football with many authorities claiming they had accepted only reluctantly. COSLA said the deal represents a £350m funding cut.

Scottish Labour publish hotly contested list rankings

Labour has published its list rankings for the Holyrood elections.  Polls suggest the party will lose most of not all of their constituency seats meaning the only way back for many incumbent MSPs is via the list.  A very loose estimate suggests about a dozen incumbent Labour MSPs could lose out in May.

The Glasgow region was topped by former MP Anas Sarwar, followed by former leader Johann Lamont (currently Pollok MSP), current Rutherglen MSP James Kelly and former MSP Pauline McNeil.  Several serving MSPs look set to lose out including Maryhill MSP Patricia Ferguson who is sixth, with fellow MSPs Paul Martin ninth, Hanzala Malik eleventh and Anne McTaggart twelfth.

The Central list is headed by GMB union activist Richard Leonard and South Lanarkshire councillor Monica Lennon, ahead of current MSPs Mark Griffin, Elaine Smith, Margaret McCulloch, John Pentland, Michael McMahon and Siobhan McMahon. Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh, a former leadership candidate, finished fourth in the West of Scotland region behind fellow MSPs Jackie Baillie, Neil Bibby and Mary Fee.

Former leader Iain Gray topped the South of Scotland list, with Jenny Marra leading the North East region, current deputy leader Alex Rowley top in Mid Scotland and Fife followed by MSP Claire Baker and former MP Thomas Docherty.  Current MSPs Rhoda Grant and David Stewart head up the Highland list.

Parliamentary Activity

Oral Question on broadband provision – Fiona McLeod (SNP, Strathkelvin and Bearsden): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on negotiations with Digital Scotland and its partners regarding the second rollout phase of the superfast broadband programme to include homes built after August 2012.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please do get in touch with Julie McLauchlan on 07734 932 578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Housing and construction news

Housing and construction news

With less than 100 days to go, Scotland’s political parties continue to set out their stalls in the build-up to the Scottish parliamentary elections in May.

Scottish Labour took the front foot at the start of the week after they followed calls by the Liberal Democrats for income tax in Scotland to be raised immediately to help cushion local council cuts. Elsewhere, Finance Secretary John Swinney was quizzed on his fiscal framework arrangements. This focuses on Scotland’s primary source of funding, the block grant from Westminster, which looks set to be affected by the revenue powers devolved under the Scotland Bill.

In housing, Scotland’s social housing crisis – and how to eradicate it – took centre stage. Nicola Barclay, chief executive of home building industry body Homes for Scotland outlined her plan for tackling the country’s housing crisis this week. Last week’s announcement that Edinburgh is set for a major housing boost with 16,000 affordable homes set to be built was still generating media traction.

Housing and construction news

Homes for Scotland draw up social housing action plan

The new chief executive of home building industry body Homes for Scotland, Nicola Barclay outlined her plan for tackling the country’s housing crisis this week, a move which is likely to attract political backing from all sides over the next few weeks. Nicola Barclay claimed she wanted to see political acceptance to recognise the need to work together across the private and public housing sectors. Housing will form a significant part of the election campaign, with the announcement one of the most significant non-political aligned news items in recent weeks.

New tax would impact on Scottish buy-to-let market

It was claimed this week that plans to put an extra tax on the purchase of a second home would make “vulnerable tenants” the “biggest losers”. The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) also said it would lead to buy-to-let investors leaving Scotland.

Housebuilding set to drive Scottish construction sector

Last week also saw the news that growth in Scotland’s construction industry over the next five years will be driven by housebuilding. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) said in its latest Construction Skills Network forecast that public and private housing are predicted to show “sustained and solid” growth during this period. The report also stated that 21,000 new workers are needed over the next five years to maintain growth. If this issue isn’t addressed head on, it will squash future growth opportunities within the sector.


 

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 5 February 2016


General political news

Labour calls for a raise in (Scottish) income tax

Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, followed calls by the Liberal Democrats this week in calling for income tax in Scotland to be raised immediately to protect councils from £350m in cuts to public services.

New financial arrangements still a long way off, claims John Swinney

The Scottish and UK governments are “some distance” from a deal on new financial arrangements for Scotland, John Swinney claimed this week. His comments followed a revised offer over the fiscal framework from the UK Government.

Relevant parliamentary activity

Tavish Scott (Liberal Democrat, Shetland): To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S4W-21123 by Nicola Sturgeon on 14 May 2014, when it will implement each of the recommendations of the Review of Scottish Public Sector Procurement in Construction.

Joe FitzPatrick (SNP, Dundee West) on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament agrees that consideration of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill at stage 2 be completed by 26 February 2016.

New Parliamentary Written Questions

Lewis Macdonald (Lab, NE Scotland): To ask the Scottish Government what legal obligation it has undertaken in relation to its announcements of planned funding for (a) the dualling of the East Coast rail line at Montrose, (b) infrastructure to support housing development, (c) work on a new junction on the A90 at Laurencekirk and (d) digital infrastructure.

Lewis Macdonald (Lab, NE Scotland): To ask the Scottish Government when it made its decision to allocate £20 million to infrastructure to support housing development in Aberdeen and when it first announced that decision.

ENDS

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please do get in touch with Julie McLauchlan on 07734 932 578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Celebration Event Takes Place

Celebration Event Takes Place

An innovative free course designed to help unemployed people living in the east end of Glasgow learn new skills to help them get back into employment came to an end this week, with those taking part attending a celebration event yesterday afternoon (Thursday, 28 January).

‘Learning Works’ is a pioneering employability course. The project is joint funded by Clyde Gateway and The Big Lottery and is supported by Thenue Housing Association. Course activities are delivered by Glasgow Kelvin College.

The celebration event took place at Thenue Housing Association on Thursday, 28 January and saw those who took part receive certificates in front of their family and friends.

The course has been running in the east end of Glasgow since November 2011. Since then, 13 courses have been delivered supporting over 140 people into work, training, learning or volunteering.

Learning Works is designed to equip participants with the required skills to make them more attractive to potential employers throughout the greater Glasgow area. Those taking part learn computer skills, the importance of goal setting, personal development as well as being given the opportunity to brush up on their literacy and numeracy.

Niki Spence, Clyde Gateway’s Senior Manager for Business and Community Growth said: “One of Clyde Gateway’s top priorities is to create employment opportunities for local residents and the Learning Works initiative is the perfect example of how we support individuals, in this case, in their efforts to return to full or part-time employment.

“Working together with Thenue Housing and Glasgow Kelvin College, we have built up an informative course over the last five years which has gone a long way in supporting the learning requirements of those living within the Clyde Gateway area. We wish all those who took part in the course the very best of luck in their continued job search and hope that they found this latest session useful.”

Clare Parkes, 34, from Calton, took part in the initiative in March 2014. Now in part-time work, she is returning to university in September to study community development. She said: “When I joined I was a single mum and didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. However, Learning Works gave me a real push and helped broaden my horizons.  It also got me started in a lot of local volunteering, which enabled me to help other people with my skills.”

Tracy Lennon, Learning Works, said: “Learning Works is a crucial part of community learning as it provides local people with a wide range of accessible learning and development opportunities. We would like to congratulate all who participate in it and wish them all the best with their future plans.”

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