'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 146.

    Ideally social housing should be a temporary solution with tenants going on to buy a house once their circumstances allow. The problem was tenants staying on cheap rents when they could afford to buy. Certainly they should have been allowed to buy at the market rate but not at the big discounts that were given

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    All I can say is well done. Thatcher's scheme deprived millions of social housing which was put into private hands. It has cost the country both socially and financially.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    #138. NiveusPluma

    Get a life.
    Up, down, along.

    Convention follows the railway.
    Up line goes to London.

    Do muppets live in the shallow end?

    I fail to see the connection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    @129 bijou-drains

    Is paying slightly less tax is a subsidy?

    @139 Gordon

    I'm not trying to claim that never having claimed any benefit is some kind of virtue. I'm glad of the welfare state and happy to contribute to people in need, I may need it some day.

    But if we're going to have socialist schemes like council housing, lets be socialist about it and keep them communal and for those in need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    All taxpayers who paid for council housing to be built were ripped off by Thacher who sold the houses off at a much reduced price. They were never built to be sold off. It was done not to help the tenants onto the property ladder it was done to off load houses and flats that needed a lot of expensive work doing to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    no !!!...

    council houses souldnt been for sale at all !!!

    no sale !!

    they not paying rent, if they pay, nearly nothing...and they get it cheap !!..

    no !!..stop this !!!

    i bought my house for full price !!!...they shoud too !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    A right to buy seems reasonable to me, what is unreasonable is buying at a significant discount and the money not going into replacing the housing stock.

    RTB potentially breaks up concentrations of council houses and gives hard workers the opportunity to get on the housing ladder.

    The real problem, of course, is that there are not enough houses and this keeps prices very high.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    10 Minutes ago

    Me? You haven't subsidised me by a penny. I went to a private school and have always lived in private housing, be that bought or rented. I have never claimed a benefit for anything.
    Though I can't disprove this by virtue of not having any evidence to hand - I find it very hard to believe that either directly or indirectly you have not benefited in kind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Prudeboy - It's DOWN to London, not up. Try leaving the shallow end for a while and expand your horizons. Muppet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Abolishing the 'right to drink your self to an early grave' would be more productive right now in Scotland

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    And a RIGHT to a proper education system. I suppose Micheal Gove is just not a very nice person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    As someone who had to implement the "Right To Buy" scheme in the '90's, I watched in disbelief as all the best post-war semi detached properties were sold off for peanuts and never replaced, whilst the monolithic estates remained as a costly drain on public finances.

    This is the direct cause of today's housing crisis, so well done to the SNP for doing something to change it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    @125 stereotonic

    You were given the opportunity to take public housing stock away from communal ownership at far below market rate, after a long period of rent also well below market rate. Yes, I think this is a subsidy to you.

    The state should provide social housing to those in need, but not give it away cheap in a way not accessible to others and contributing to our overheated housing economy

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    One of the many terrible things Thatcher did was to sell of the council housing stock dirt cheap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    115. gill

    'We do not need more housing, we need less people!'

    You mean fewer people. How would that work then? Stop building houses until all the homeless die of exposure and there's enough housing to go round. Brilliant.

    125. stereotonic

    'Councils ... squandered the profits.'

    How as they were banned from using the profits to build houses and told they had to spend it on reducing debt?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    107. Sean
    Right to buy would have been an excellent policy IF there was no BTL 'industry'.

    There is only a BTL industry because people who can't afford £X a month in rent are subbed up to that level by benefits, which makes BTL economic. If this were not the case, rents (and values) would be lower.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    To those arguing that council rents are cheap/subsidised, they are not.
    Most council housing was built over 4 decades ago, and the cost of building them is long since paid off.
    It is the private rents which are too expensive, they are the ones which are subsidised by tax payers, through Housing Benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.


    Private Schools attain "Charitable Status" with accompanying tax relief and subsidies. Private home owners were subsidised for years through the MIRAS system. I think you'll find you have had advantage through tax breaks and subsidies, just like those you criticise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Why do people keep talking of a housing shortgage? It doesn't matter who owns the bricks, it is still there, with someone in it. Yes there are homeless people, but it's minor compared to other countries, so there can't be a shortgage. Also, if there was a shortage then builders would build because these houses would be snapped up before completion, it's called market forces.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    I think it should also be abolished in the rest of the UK as well. Why should tenants get cheap houses when the private sector doesn't. We have all paid for council properties when they were built through taxation.
    However, I must admit you can always tell which are the bought ex-council houses by looking at the better kept from gardens!


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