'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 220.

    Okay so the scheme reduced the number of local authority homes available to rent, but the people who brought still have to be housed. This is smoke and mirrors, most councils in the UK have land available to build on, they were denied the right to use income from the sales to build new premises. Thats why there is still fewer locally available houses. No Right to build is and was the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    At last a step in the right direction.

    Next overturn the council house for life mentality - people should be awarded social housing for 5 years, and then reviewed for renewal.

    I know people who are now on good salaries who could afford to move into the private rented sector, which would free up properties for poorer people who need them.

    This would make the bedroom tax more workable.

  • 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 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 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. . . .


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