'Right to buy' to be scrapped in Scotland

Council flats The right to buy council homes was introduced in 1980

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The right of council tenants to buy the homes they rent at discounted rates will be abolished in Scotland.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the government's decision to end the scheme on a visit to a housing association in Glasgow.

Margaret Thatcher's Tory government introduced the scheme in 1980.

The Scottish government has already scrapped "right to buy" for new tenants and it will be abolished altogether in 2017.

Start Quote

We can no longer afford to see badly needed homes lost to the social sector”

End Quote Nicola Sturgeon Deputy First Minister

Since the opportunity to buy was introduced, 455,000 Scottish properties have been sold.

The Scottish government said that had reduced the number of homes available for cheap rent and increased the waiting lists for properties of this type.

Ms Sturgeon, during a visit to Queens Cross Housing Association, said the move would "safeguard social housing stock for future generations".

She added: "It is absolutely vital that people can access social housing when they need it most. Social housing is under significant pressure and so too are the budgets that support it.

"The Scottish government is doing everything possible to maximise our investment in housing and deliver on our target of 30,000 new, affordable homes over the lifetime of this parliament.

"But, given the pressure on both the housing stock and budgets - and with 400,000 people on waiting lists for social housing - we can no longer afford to see badly needed homes lost to the social sector."


"Two thirds of residential properties in Scotland are now owned by their occupiers. But there is a big shortage of homes for rent, particularly social housing.

It is mainly for that reason that the Scottish government has restricted the 'right to buy'.

In March 2011, it was scrapped for new tenants and new social housing. From 2017, it will be abolished altogether.

This is in marked contrast to policy in England. In this year's budget, the UK government increased the discount available to tenants in London.

The Chancellor also promised to reduce the qualifying period from five to three years to widen access.

Devolution continues to increase the policy differences between Scotland and other parts of the UK."

In November last year, a Scottish government consultation revealed that a majority of Scottish councils wanted the right to buy policy scrapped.

The report also showed that many tenants and social landlords wanted it to end.

An opponent of the move is former Scottish Conservative Party leader Annabel Goldie.

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that the policy was "arguably" one of the most "socially liberating" policies to be introduced in Scotland and across the UK.

Miss Goldie added: "I can still remember the days when people lived in monolithic council house schemes - that is what they were called - and they were afflicted by a postcode prejudice.

"They were apprehensive about disclosing their address because they felt it would negate their chance of getting a job or even being accepted for an interview.

"By offering a tenant the right to buy, you did two things - you first of all introduced a freedom to the individual to make a choice about how they wanted to live, and secondly you stopped them being trapped in that environment - because that is exactly what they were."

She went on: "Right to buy freed people from the environmental prison they were in."

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations welcomed the Scottish government's announcement.

Its membership manager said: "Right to buy has had its day and has no place in 21st century Scotland.

"It has been beneficial to a relatively small number of individuals, but clearly a loss to the greater public good. Half a million social rented homes have been lost in the 30 years of this policy in Scotland, very often the better stock in the more popular areas."

Although the right to buy policy will come to an end in Scotland in 2017, it continues to exist elsewhere in the UK.

  • In England the right to buy has been extended, with discounts of up to £75,000 outside London and £100,000 in the capital. In addition, the occupancy period before tenants can apply to buy has been reduced from five years to three years.
  • In Wales the maximum discount available is £16,000 and the qualifying period for tenants is five years. In 2010 the Welsh Assembly gained the power to suspend the policy, but has not done so.
  • In Northern Ireland, the qualifying period for tenants is five years and the maximum discount available is £24,000.

Right to buy - key statistics

Source: Future of Right to Buy in Scotland - Consultation

House sales graph Source: Housing Statistics Branch, Scottish Government

How many properties have been bought using the scheme?

  • 455,000

How many people were on local authority and housing association waiting lists in 2010?

  • 397,438 (figure for March 2010)

How many homeless applications were made in 2010/11?

  • 55,227

What was the peak period for right to buy sales?

  • 1989/90 - about 32,500 were sold

Were there any other popular years?

  • 2002/03 - about 18,000 were sold

How many right to buy sales took place in 2010/11?

  • 2,025

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  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    @35. Bob Webster

    So I'm guessing that you bought your house outright, with cash...because you can afford the £100,000+ price tag in one lump sum?

    More than likely you have a mortgage, because you can't afford to buy it in one go! If so then your "If you can't afford it, you don't get it. Simple" comment goes out the window!

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    So what hapopens to people who have lived in those homes for the majority of their life? will they be evicted?

    Kinda puts the whole 'bedroom tax' thing too shame. Ofcourse there wont be so much of an outcry about this unless it was the tories doing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Can't stand Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, her voice grates on me. This doesn't surprise me one iota. Scotland has it's own agenda and quite frankly I can't wait for them to get independence so my taxes don't have to fund them. I'll just wait for them to fall flat on their anuses !

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    The scheme is a means to help those at the bottom move up. If the money raised is reinvested in housing its a system that works. The problem is the money is spent elsewhere. Stopping the right to buy will cause far more to be stuck in rented accomodation with very little chance of benefitting from house price rises. linking it to waiting lists is stupid, if they hadnt bought it theyd still need it

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    455,000 exercised the right to buy. My unmarried aunt was one of them. She sold the house at a handsome profit some years later when she had to move into sheltered housing. When she died she left the proceeds to me, my brother and my cousin. That house is now lost to the people who need it and three home-owning individuals have profited. Madness!

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    I've been on waiting list for a few years just to be able to rent social housing (but I work full time, no kids, no ailments = no chance) never mind be in a RTB situation. I think RTB is actually a very good scheme. The problem is not building more homes to replace those that have been sold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    My home was valued at 160k. . . . . .Been paying rent for 20 years (80k) Should have had a 70% discount. . . . . . The discount worked out to have been less than 40%, but I think that's fair enough as I have solar panels, new roof etc. Luckily, I had a deposit, but I am now 47 with an 80k mortgage, which is more than double my rent was monthly. So, 80K rent, 20k deposit, 80k mortgage = 180k. . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    The idea was SUPPOSED to be that long term tenants of the council were quite rightly given the right to benefit from alk the rent they had paid by giving them an easy route onto the property market. Money gained from sales was SUPPOSED to be used to build new housing , which never happened , with councils investing tge money in madcap social work schemes and fat cat salaries, but still good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    So many ill informed comments as usual

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    70. stereotonic

    Goodness me. Councils spending public money to renovate and update a house and then not simply handing the whole lot over to private ownership at a massive discount. How awful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.


    A decison designed specifically to prevent working-class families benefitting from wealth, ownership and inheritance, all of which remain the preserve of the middle and upper classes. Consigning subsequent generations to the same poverty trap of their forebears.

    If ever a policy could be said to be regressive, this is it.

    Scottish Government sould be ashamed of themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    I am not a supporter of the SNP but as a lifelong socialist I deplored the introduction of the right-to-buy scheme, which removed thousands of homes from those who could not afford to buy a house, and I thoroughly welcome the steps the SNP administration has taken to abolish this misconceived Tory policy. I'm sad to acknowledge that the SNP is more left-wing than the Labour Party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Perhaps those that need subsidised housing because they can't be bothered to work should be made to live in tents. That would solve much of the current housing problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Err... good? The 'right to buy' thing is pretty offensive.

    Social housing is there for people in need who can't afford to go to the private sector. So the first flaw is that it reduces the stock available to help those in need.

    And It is paid for by the rest of us. The rest of us who do live in the private sector and have to pay market rates to buy a house. We don't get a subsidy, let alone two

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The amount of posts shouting Thatcher is reminicent of the university challenge where every answer was Trotsky. Get over the distant past and start looking for solutions, not blaming someone in the past because its easier than fixing it and admitting that socialist politics are just as flawed

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    58. Factchecker515
    Could I just please point out that the money for council house sales was not sent to the Treasury, it sat and sits in local authority coffers. Thirteen years of Blair and Brown, those two Scotsmen, and they did NOTHING with it.

    Partial truth. It was given to LA, but they could not spend it until any debt they had was paid off. This sum should have been ringfenced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Prices aren't as discounted as you think. . . . . . If you have solar panels, the council continue to make money off it for 10 years after you've bought it. If you've had a new roof in the last 10 yrs, it adds 10K to it's 'discounted price', new kitchen in the last 10 yrs is 5k to the discounted price. . . . .The councils make their money, they just don't channel it back to where it should go

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Actually now I have read through more comments and I wish I had been less trivial now. My mother was able to buy our council house when I was 5 and I am sure that this was the only way a very hard-working (though poorly paid) single-mother could have managed this. It is a shame this has stopped now and hope that Scotland is able to afford this RTB again in the future

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    60 Ben

    If the right to buy is continued then councils will lose on every house they build. This scheme has caused the housing shortage. Scrap it now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    58. Factchecker515

    'Could I just please point out that the money for council house sales ... it sat and sit in local authority coffers. '

    Even if that is correct what would you have had local authorities do with it?


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