By Celia Fitzgerald
The homeless do not vote because it’s too difficult to register and the poor are afraid to register because of a deep seated distrust of the system.
This may go some way to explaining why Labour has managed to keep its stranglehold on Scottish politics so long after it abandoned its socialist principles and embraced Thatcherism. Prominent among these was Thatcher’s flagship policy of the right to buy.
Council houses could be sold to qualifying council tenants at a fraction of their market value thus increasing the size of the property owning classes and seriously depleting the social housing stock. Very few new council homes were built under Labour and the level of homelessness became critical.
Unlike the SNP which is answerable only to the Scottish people, so-called Scottish Labour has the sole agenda of creating Scottish Labour voters to feed the monster that was the Labour Westminster government. Right-to-buy was popular among those who could register to vote. Who cared about the homeless? They could not vote.
In addition, contrary to popular belief, the Scottish government never removed the right-to-buy.
When the SNP, who had no such externally imposed agenda, gained control of the East Lothian Council in 2007 their first and main task was to stop selling council houses and to significantly increase the social housing stock. Everything improved in East Lothian, an astonishing achievement in these difficult economic times.
Within hours of the formation of the new Tory/Labour led East Lothian Council in May 2012 they announced the re-introduction of the right-to-buy and a halt to buy-backs and new builds. This is at a time when re-possessions and evictions are at a high and homelessness dramatically on the rise. But, the homeless do not vote.
Labour has long ago abdicated its responsibility to the people of Scotland and stopped caring about the plight of people such as the homeless. But is the high and increasing number of the homeless even necessary or inevitable no matter how drastic the economic conditions?
Not in Iceland, which gained its independence from Denmark in 1944 and is not even a member of the EU.
We all know, or should know, how Iceland recovered from a particularly severe version of the financial crisis that is still afflicting most of us and getting worse.
Iceland allowed its banking system to collapse. They put their prime minister on trial for negligence and jailed the bankers for corruption. Taxes were increased for the wealthy, government spending was drastically reduced but welfare cuts were kept low.
Now, nearly 60% of their loans from the IMF and the Nordic countries have been paid off. The 2009 deficit of about 14% of GDP fell to about 2% in 2012. Unemployment has shrunk to 5% and hardly anyone is homeless. This is a truly remarkable recovery for a country which was completely bankrupt a few years ago and had its assets seized by the UK.
What many of us may not fully realise is that instead of bailing out the banks, Iceland rescued the people by paying off their loans and wiping out homeowner debts up to 110% of property values. The people of Iceland have kept their homes and a decent standard of living and are rapidly becoming one of the more prosperous countries in Europe.
We are continuing to reward our corrupt politicians and bankers and are penalising the people in an increasingly abhorrent and destructive way. Not only is this morally wrong but, as Iceland has demonstrated, the wrong route to recovery.
It’s difficult to imagine a more compelling argument not only for the need for Labour in Scotland to become autonomous and return to its original Socialist principles but also for the absolute urgency of Scotland becoming independent.
Celia Fitzgerald is a representative of Labour for Independence