THE contents of the plethora of articles in last weekend’s Sunday National on the subject of housing can be summarised very simply.

Since Thatcher’s dogmatic drive to eliminate council housing, there has been a dire lack of social housing. This has resulted in an unhealthy reliance on the private rental sector.

Regulation of the latter, like the regulation of all other privatised services, has failed to deliver adequate provision and the reason is quite clear. If the market is unable to ensure satisfactory privately owned services on its own, then trying to regulate it into doing so is like trying to push water uphill. There will always be loopholes through which quality delivery can escape.

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The answer to the problem is blindingly obvious. We need more, much more, social housing.

If there is an abundance of low-cost, publicly owned housing available to those who need it, the market will sort out the rest of the problem.

Demand for privately rented accommodation will fall, rents for those properties will fall, a significant proportion will be put on the market and the costs for first-time buyers will reduce, hence reducing further the demand for private rentals.

Private landlords will soon find some other method of making money, perhaps investing in something more productive. Companies specialising in construction of houses for social rent springs to mind, but maybe that’s a thought too far!

The only remaining question is where the funding for this undeniably necessary social housing will come from.

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We need an urgent and fundamental review of the structure and nature of our tax system, particularly at the local level, if we are to escape the current housing crisis. Reliance on UK block grants, ever-increasing income tax rates and a woefully inadequate council tax system simply doesn’t cut it.

All that appears to be happening at present is frantic rearranging of deck chairs.

Somebody in government needs to sit down and evaluate how much money is required to solve this and the many other problems we face, put everything in order of priority and then work out how to find the funding, without resorting to idiotic buy-now, pay-much-much-more-later schemes like PFI.

An awful lot of work has been done already by non-government actors, so harvesting ideas and coming up with an action plan shouldn’t take forever.

Cameron Crawford

I REFER to your report (May 11) on Michael Russell’s speech to the Community Land Scotland Conference in his capacity as chair of the Scottish Land Commission. He encouragingly states that “More urgency and ambition (is) needed on land reform”.

Has the penny dropped?

It doesn’t look that way from here, as the agenda published for the Land Commission’s Conference in June 2024 has no place for land taxation. Such taxation has the capacity to change the patterns of land ownership and transform lives not only to assist our First Minister’s mission to eradicate child poverty but to eradicate poverty completely.

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I am told that the reason for its absence is that land taxation is not a priority for the Land Commission as it does not feature in the Strategic Plan agreed between the Commission and the Scottish Government in 2023 until 2026. The Commission has, however, produced a schematic for the shorter term where housing in rural areas is to be given priority.

The Commission can prioritise when it suits, but on the defining issue of our time in Scotland, independence and how we fund it, the Commission doesn’t have the time. Does this not just sum up the approach of public institutions in Scotland: let’s leave anything well alone which could advance independence?

Graeme McCormick