No go for the Tories

Oh my god. I can’t get home. Apparently I live in a Scottish city’s no-go area. Everyone who lives in my working class district in the East End of Glasgow, predominantly consisting of social housing, is cowering in terror in the Forge Shopping Centre in Parkhead. Only Parkhead is a no-go area too and Greggs is about to run out of sausage rolls. Someone is hoarding bridies, and the shop shelves are being emptied of yum yums. Will the horrors never end? It’s far too terrifying to set foot in Easterhoose, in case someone glances in your direction as you pass them on the pavement and says, “The nights are fair drawin in eh.” The darkness. The darkness. It’s enough to make you wake up in the night covered in sweat from the fear. If you could get home to sleep in your own bed that is, which you can’t because it’s in a no-go area.

Tory MSP and local government spokesperson Graham Simpson clearly needs to get out more. According to the genteel Mr Simpson, Scotland’s cities are peppered with “no-go” areas. In a debate in Holyrood this week on housing, the man from the party that has axed entitlement to housing benefit, ended lifelong social housing lets in England, presided over a property bubble that has put home ownership out of the reach of hundreds of thousands, and is forcing housing associations in England to sell of their stock, blamed Labour and the SNP for the housing crisis saying, “That we have in our great cities sink estates, no-go areas and people sleeping rough should be a source of shame for the SNP and Labour.”

Ah Tories. Don’t you just love the way in which they shamelessly blame everyone else for the problems that they’ve done more to create than anyone? And don’t you just love the way in which they demonise, insult, and besmirch working class people in Scotland’s cities. There’s the real voice of the Scottish Conservatives there, a wee net curtain twitcher with pursed lips in a douce wee toon or suburb, whose entire experience of working class areas comes from outraged and outrageous columnists in the Daily Mail.

It’s not like we don’t have Tories in places like Barlanark, Easterhouse or Shettleston. They do exist, and can be easily identified because they’re the ones in cheap polyester paramilitary uniforms marching behind a big drum to the accompaniment of tunes about killing Catholics. They’re not the kind of people that the douce wee purse lippers want to associate with, certainly they’d not invite them for tea and scones in the village café, but they’re quite happy that the sectarian poison is being inflicted on working class areas if it means that the better off can preserve their prejudices, privileges and preference.

Because of the Scottish Parliament, Scotland has protected itself from some of the worst aspects of the housing crisis that blights the UK. Scotland has abolished the right to buy, meaning that there is still a stock of decent social housing in this country. It is still difficult to get into social housing, but it’s easier in Scotland than it is in some parts of England. The Scottish Parliament has mitigated the evil bedroom tax introduced by the Tories, but only at the expense of making cuts elsewhere in the Scottish budget. There is a limit to what Scotland can do when the main levers of control are elsewhere.

A few decades ago, it was a rare sight to see homeless people begging on the streets of our large cities, and when you did see them they tended to be older men who were clearly strugging with problems of alcohol abuse. Now you see homeless people by the hundreds, young, old, male, female. Homelessness charities estimate that there are up to 5000 people who sleep rough on the streets of Scotland’s towns and cities. It’s a national disgrace.

Homeless people are individuals. They’re human beings just like the rest of us. Human beings who through tragic circumstances, an uncaring benefits system, or sheer bad luck have ended up without a roof over their heads. There but for the grace of the gods could go any one of us. Some seemingly have mental health issues. Some seemingly have decided that the only way to get through their horrible days and even worse nights is to self-medicate on alcohol or drugs. Those of us who are lucky enough to have a safe and warm home have no right to judge or condemn them for that, not until we’re prepared to walk mile after mile in their leaky shoes with no prospect of a warm and dry bed at the end of the trudge in the rain. Drug and alcohol abuse are all too often sane responses to insane circumstances. It’s the Tories above all who are responsible for creating those insane circumstances, and then they preach about no-go areas and blame everyone else for the social problems they’ve manufactured out of their own greed, selfishness, and avarice.

There are thousands of rough sleepers, but there are thousands more hidden homeless, people who couch-surf or who rely on assistance from family or friends. This kind of homelessness is far more common, and often doesn’t come to the attention of homeless charities or local authorities until the homeless person’s informal arrangements break down.

There are many reasons for homelessness, but the largest single cause in recent years is the changes that have been made by the Conservative government in Westminster to the housing benefits system. Housing benefit now only pays “eligible rent”, which is the amount that the Westminster government deems to be reasonable for your area. The benefits cap limits the total amount that a claimant can receive. If you are single, under the age of 35, and rent privately, you’ll only be entitled to the cost of a single room in a shared house. If you are under the age of 22, you might not be eligible for any help with your housing costs at all. Combined with the rise in low wages and the so-call gig economy with the precarious and uncertain income it provides, hundreds of thousands more people across the UK now struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. The fault for this lies squarely with the Conservative government and a Labour government before it which was equally happy to treat housing as an investment opportunity and not as a human right.

Every homeless person on the streets of Scotland is a testament to the failure, greed, and malign meanness of the Tories. Yes, certainly, the Scottish Parliament could do more, but all it can do is to mitigate the damage caused by Westminster policies. The best way to deal with the housing crisis is to make the whole of Scotland a no-go area for Conservatives.


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0 thoughts on “No go for the Tories

  1. I see the lovely Jacob Rees-Mogg is singing the praises of the ‘compassion’ to be found in food banks. That’s OK inside the foodbank, but if he cares to meet me outside the foodbank I volunteer in, he will find out exactly how compassionate this Glasgow granny is. Maybe he will get his Nanny to me!

    • People say Rees Mogg is a “throw back” – other say they would like to throw him back. Personally, I know where I would like to throw him … the words “wheels” and “express train” spring to mind!

    • The whole of FMQs is a disgrace with that worse than useless Presiding Officer. He’s quick to intervene asking for silence to hear the question when Ruth the Mooth is shouting at Nicola, but no request for silence to hear the answer!

  2. In any developed nation such social conditions would lead to a general strike, a full size revolution like the major ones in France and Russia. When people can no longer afford to feed their children, when unemployment is a permanent state, when unerprivileged suicides get normal, even a 10p rise of bus fares can lead to an explosion.
    Not so in these latitudes. Complacency, acceptance of the ever deteriorating conditions – what IS it with you guys.

  3. Of course there are ‘No Go Areas’ in Scotland.

    Millions of acres of Scotland are no go areas, unless you are a grouse, pheasant, salmon. stag, golf ball, or extremely filthy rich tourist.

    While we have NIMBY protesters against Aberdeen FC relocating to Westhill arguing that the new modern stadium would encroach on some mythical ‘Green Belt’ (the nearby estate was built to house Oil and Gas workers during the Boom Years on, ahem, the Green Belt.) Lords, Marquesses, Earls, Minor Barons, Baronets and ‘non titled landowners’ (aye, richt) fence off most of Scotland from the rest of us, while we the Great Unjwashed former serfs must make do with living on top of each other on the wee strippets of land which our Lords and Masters deem adequate to house the servant and functionary classes.
    Hamilton, Buccleuch, Lennox, Gordon, Argyll, Atholl, Montrose, Roxburgh: It sounds like the cast of ‘Game of Thrones’ whatever that is. (I’ll ask the Light of My Life later)
    I can’t be arsed looking up Tory MSP Graham Simpson. He is a member of the British National Scotland Deniers who are hell bent on Destroying Scotland. That’s all I need to know.

    I think I’ll dander down to Loch Lomond and pitch a tent on the shoreline just outside Cameron House.
    L:ovely wee spot for a fortnight in the open air.
    My tent pegs wouldn’t make the turf before I was hounded back onto the A82.
    No go areas?
    The gall of this man.

    • “Of course there are ‘No Go Areas’ in Scotland.

      Millions of acres of Scotland are no go areas, unless you are a grouse, pheasant, salmon. stag, golf ball, or extremely filthy rich tourist.”

      Lol…….ain’t that the truth ……….well said !

      • Wrong. I have walked all my life all over Scotland. If you use your common sense and ask the estates during say the shooting season they are still happy to let you access there land.

        The Loch Lomand situation is different. Those rules are to manage inconsiderate idiots.

        • If you ask the estates, they’re happy to let you use their land?

          Well, isn’t that mighty generous of them. I’m willing to bet that they wouldn’t allow a group of homeless people to have a wee day out and a picnic on ‘their’ land!!

          • Sorry Annie you are wrong. There is free access to all land in Scotland. This is the law. Obviously common sense tells you that you cannot camp or walk on someone’s front garden. You can walk across fields etc. etc. Just use the gates, do not trample crops. You are wrong, homeless people can walk anywhere in Scotland just like anyone else.

            In my many years on the hills and glens I have met people from all walks of life, rich, poor, male, female. There is no class system outdoors. All you need do is consider others and you will not be bothered. This is not true in England or Wales where there is no freedom to walk free.

            The situation at Loch Lomond is only restricted because of the inconsiderate campers and drinkers who party there, who do not clean up there mess or bury there poo. These idiots ruin it for others.

    • Grouse, pheasant, salmon and stags are more than welcome as far as I’m concerned. However the extremely filthy rich estate-owning tourists can pose a problem.

        • There’s the rub, Andy: ‘their land’.
          No it’s not. Their ancestors butchered their way to the top, and were ‘rewarded’ by various bloody monarchs for having bigger chibs than the robber Baron in the next county.
          We must retake these vast ‘hereditary’ estates for the Country.
          The notion that Nobility Rules, and that their power and influence, an accident of birth, is passed on from generation to generation, along with vast estates ‘won’ by subjugating the Hoi Polloi and slaughtering any opposition, survives into the 21st Century, is a Neo Fascist myth perpetuated by the Iron Hell Oligarchy to keep the rest of us in our place; a colony of England held in check by the ‘authority and implicit power of the Scottish Lairds, and the Scottish Branch of the London Establishment.
          We build a brand spanking new hospital, and some allegedly faceless blameless ‘consultant’ names it the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital?
          In Baghdad it would have been dubbed the Saddam Hussein Hospital?
          The Idi Amin Hospital? The Papa Doc Hospital?
          An extreme perhaps; but what is this convention of naming everything after Royalty other than hegemony?
          I bow before no man, I doff my cap to no one, my version of history remembers the Covenanters and the Tree of Liberty, and commemorates Scots hung by these nobles because they objected to being sold to England for 30 pieces of siller.
          ‘They let you on their land’, indeed.

          • What is wrong with land ownership Wendy. I own the land I live on and its 0.75 acre of space.

            Are you saying that if you are wealthy enough to buy more land that this that it is somehow anti social? anti the people. Rubbish it is not what you own that matters it is how you behave to others around you. Lets say you win £150M on the Euro-millions lottery (if you lived here) and you spend a £100m buying a Scottish estate. Is this wrong, or is it just wrong for others. Why can’t you leave that to your dependants?

            Yes historically the great landed estates of Scotland were managed by an elite, some still are, but remember the sins of the father are not the sins of their heirs. Many landlords are good land managers, some not. Using this analogy of property you could say that the labour councils of the past did not manage their stock of property well either.

            You can moan about benefits like low levels of business rates, rates, etc. etc .that apparently occur on large estates. This is fair enough as this cost and expense should be fair to all. In this case the fault is the government not the land owner. They simply and correctly reduce their costs if legally possible. This is the social issue, not land ownership. Rant over.

            p.s. I come from what would be considered a poor family background, living on a hill farm for my formative years. I am not from the wealthy set. I have worked all my like to get enough money to buy this land and house to retire too. I am not biased to wealth and land ownership. Others are.

          • My point, Andy, is that a vast amount of Scotland is owned by people who (a) are not Scots – and frequently not Brits of any stripe – and (b) do not live on the land they own. I object to holiday homes which price locals out of the market, too. It’s a matter of principle.

            If people want to live in Scotland and buy a home that they will live in full time then power to their elbows. But many of the vast estates are only occupied during the “huntin’, shootin’ and fishin'” seasons … and then only so that these activities can be sold for ridiculous prices to other members of the wealthy elite.

            Added to which, I don’t believe it is right that individuals of any stripe should own vast tracts of any country. The land belongs to everyone … or should do. It is one of the things which I hope will be addressed come Independence.

          • @Andy Anderson.
            May I politely encourage you to get a copy of Andy Wightman’s ‘The Poor Had No Lawyers’. This addresses the nuts and bolts of where we are with landowning in Scotland and clearly demonstrates why there are real problems here. The pattern of landownership in Scotland is medieval and the legal system has be rigged to defend the interests of the few against the many. Is it wrong to buy land and pass down to your dependents? No of course not, as long as it has been done in a fair and decent manner but therein lies the issue. Get the book, you shall not regret it.

        • Confusing. First you say they let you on their land then you say there is a right to access anyway.

          The access provisions in the Land Reform Act allow responsible access almost everywhere. Irresponsible access would include, among other things, damage to crops or invasion of privacy, defined by curtilages round dwellings.

          No-one needs a landowners permission to take responsible access. It’s about freedom of movement, which is a civil right.

  4. The UK Government clicked on a computer button, and created £430 billion in the Quantative Easing process, which they then gave to the Banks. Imagine if the government had instead forced the banks to split their High Street element from their Investment (ie gambling) arms and then used the £430billion to increase pensions, benefits and public sector pay; then used the hundreds of billions left over to build houses, build and repair roads, open or re-open railway lines, build tidal power stations, etc etc. Instead of that, the UK government just filled the banks’ balance sheets. No-one in the UK Government learned anything about how the world recovered from the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 30’s. Pity really, because it is first year Economics.

  5. Speaking as someone who, through no fault of my own, came within a gnat’s whisker of homelessness back in the West Highlands in 1990, this topic really speaks to me. Had it not been for a caring, compassionate Local Authority in Fort William, who told me that I could apply for (and would get) Housing Benefit (I had no idea … I had never, until then, needed to know!), then I shudder to think what would have become of me.

    As a recently single woman of working age (both of which I was back then) – I doubt they would be able to help me today … and they certainly would not be allowed to tell me what my “entitlement” is and how to go about getting it. This information has been made a State Secret under the thrice-damned Tory Westminster Government!

    If there still are any of the “gods” to whom Paul refers, I don’t know how the repulsive Graham Simpson was not struck by lightning where he stood!

  6. Excellent piece Paul and Jack Collatin highlighting the NIMBY sickness emphasised very clearly I might add by Lib-Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton in one of last ‘season’s’ FMQs where there was a local residents’ stramash over the plan to site 6,000 (or 600?) houses in his constituent area. The usual apparent residents’ complaints gave him the opportunity to farther bash ScotGov on the two other regular pot shot areas of GP provision and education – ie more housing would over-stretch public services; there would be too many newcomers which would highlight the need for more schools and GP surgeries. Whilst understandable and common sense – one couldn’t quite dispel the notion that there was just a wee element of ‘we like our nice views and class of current residents and dinnae want the plebs overspilling or anything nasty which might reduce the value of wir nice hooses’ – and all the usual guff!

    However, on the Tory love of that old line, ‘sink-estates’, any chance they get and crediting this label specifically and consistently as a characteristic failure of SNP and Labour housing initiatives – methinks the Tories are smarting from a nice wee article in Private Eye No. 1451 25 August – 7 September 2017 – which noted our old chum – Iain Duncan Smith’s attendance at and speech given at the National Landlords Investment Show where IDS was hailed as a ‘key Tory influencer’ – and where he apparently pocketed the neat sum (according to his register of interests) of £4,000.

    Eye notes that: “After his appearance at the show, Duncan Smith criticised former chancellor George Osborne’s planned removal of some tax breaks for buy-to-let landlords, saying the latter are “a significant provider of the additional housing we need. We should be encouraging them with devices such as VAT relief on conversions or even capital allowances, not punishing them”. Duncan Smith said private landlords were a better solution to the housing crisis than the council houses proposed by “Jeremy Corbyn and his enforcer John McDonnell”, which would lead to more “sink estates, vast rent arrears and often sub-standard housing”.

    Tie all of that in with the Tories cut the red tape initiative, the Grenfell situation and their continuance of the Tory housing strategy – it’s very much private business as usual with the Tories – and I noted that whilst Ruth Davidson was putting her case for housing shortages in Scotland at the last but one FMQs, madam still summarised with the needing to get more young buyers onto the housing ladder – so not really an across the board housing strategy – but just one we would expect from the Tories – to continue as usual, exemplifying the continuance of a ‘them and us’ in housing strategy. Divide and rule, create more Tory voters – BBC blah blah type stuff.

    I’d say Glasgow City Council in prior years and not so prior years – have a great deal of neglect to answer for – and accounts of their attending, as with other council representatives, the lavishly funded and presented in the Med property events – does nothing to positively reflect their interests in either providing or solving housing crises at a certain level!

    It’s interesting though how often the Tories pick up the urban dictionary phrases churned out by the status quo supporting opinion piece-journos to place Scotland and quite often Glasgow as ‘anything ten minutes from Byres road getrification’ as pure dead slum, deprivation and ‘no go areas’. They didn’t really ‘get’ Kevin Bridges Bus Stop joke did they – although they probably think he ought to be their next poster boy.

    I still puzzle at how Eddie Izzard fell for Jim Murphy’s 2014 ‘street’ role-plays and mini documentaries to fuel the perception of ‘Glasgow, aye it’s rough, aggressive’ stuff to up the sales of male Tena around Islington. But there you go. Men who see only surfaces and all that.

    BritGov have obviously thrown off their ‘romantic’ phase – given up their Walter Scott visions of the tartan, the romantic Hielands, the shootin’, huntin’ fishin’, the Burns Club membership ‘thing’ and the Bonnie Bonnie Hogmanay soirees with the 12 year-old be-ribboned malt to share in the Westminster ante-rooms once a year – and are doing their desperate appeal for the youth vote by attempting some kind of faux ‘street’, ‘grunge’ or ‘urban’ temporary PR consultant purchased black and white tv stylie ‘we really know Scotland’ stuff and oh my – it’s GRIM.

    Vanilla!

  7. Nice to see FC Koln reminding the English who’s in charge of Europe and where we would be if the EU didnt contain a resurgent and unrestrained Germany. Its a great song (Hymne) FC Koln sign on match days which shows the Scottish cultural influence in Europe to this day.

  8. Having just read an article written by our friend ‘Wee Ginger Dug’ – exceptionally clever creature – I’m entirely in agreement with his thinking… but, the best cure in/for Scotland is as follows: “Saor Alba Gu Brath!” ~ we simply need to be patient!

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