East Lothian Courier – 15 February 2024


Housing’s an increasing concern. Not from the perspective of too many new builds in areas where public services are already struggling to cope, whether doctors, dentists or even just infrastructure. But from the point of view of it just not being available at all.

East Lothian might not have the homelessness crisis seen on the streets of London, and which is truly shameful. It’s not just folk sleeping in shop doorways but tents springing up. Understandable given the cold but they’re not a home. Not only are there health and security implications but participating in work and society’s difficult, if not impossible.

In the county its hidden as folk are couch surfing or staying with family or friends. But they still don’t have a home of their own. The accommodation’s both inadequate and unable to be the basis for a proper life. Yet the availability of council or social housing’s limited and rents and a mortgage beyond many.

It’s why the slashing of the housebuilding budget is calamitous and should be reversed by the Scottish Government. We need new homes to rent and not just supposed mid-market ones beyond the pocket of many.

The fault started decades ago with Thatcher selling off council housing at a discount and Labours failure to reverse it. Councils lost stock but still had to service debt on what they’d built. New build council housing all but ceased. That’s now ended but the loss is significant and so many more need built. I recall when I was a young man before Thatcher’s started the sell off applying for a council house in West Lothian. Within months, not even a year I was offered one. As it was, I didn’t take it as I was moving work.

But nowadays no such offer would be forthcoming. Certainly not for a single person but more worryingly even for families. But many cannot hope to get on the property ladder by buying and private rentals can be extortionate.

It’s why building new council housing is essential. But so’s restricting AirBnBs as locals’ needs must take priority over holidaymakers.