Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Scotland's Future - No Tuition Fees, Affordable Housing

There was a lively discussion at the hustings organised by Glasgow University Union, this evening.

I highlighted the Greens' commitment to No Tuition Fees. Universities and colleges are part of what makes for a good society; they work best when education is free at the point of use and paid for collectively through taxation.  Access to higher and further education, whether part-time or fulltime, should be based on an individual’s ability to learn rather than their ability to pay.

Greens will oppose the UK Government’s decision to shift the cost of higher and further education away from general taxation and onto the individual. Education is not simply a personal investment in a higher income, and while graduates do on average earn higher salaries, the only way to ensure that they pay a fair contribution is through progressive income tax.

Photo of poem at entrance to Glasgow University's Library

We’ll commit to keeping education free at the point of use, and we’ll oppose tuition fees and additional graduate taxes. The Westminster cuts will mean a funding gap - Greens will raise revenue to fill it. We will place a priority on funding education and research, ending student poverty, and keeping student debt down.

Housing costs are a major concern for students and graduates. Scotland’s housing and regeneration budget has taken the biggest hit in public spending cuts, with a substantial reduction in real terms. This is indefensible, especially at a time when homelessness and poverty affect far too many communities across Scotland.

Greens believe we can overcome these problems and build healthier, more tolerant and creative communities for everyone in Scotland to enjoy. Scotland desperately needs more affordable homes.

Greens cannot stand back and watch people languishing on housing waiting lists, and see homelessness get worse, when upwards of £1.6bn is wasted on a second road bridge across the Firth of Forth.

We’ll reverse the cut to the housing budget and invest in social housing. We’ll keep those homes affordable and warm through our £100m a year universal national programme of home energy efficiency to cut household bills.

Scotland has an internationally acclaimed 2012 homelessness commitment that will soon be disgraced if we do not commit the resources and support required to honour this ambition. We’ll implement all parts of the 2003 Homelessness Act, and protect housing and homelessness services from unnecessary cuts.

We’ll further restrict the Right to Buy, ensuring that social housing remains available as social housing. We’ll bring more empty homes back into use, using a mixture of grants, loans and strengthened legal powers for councils and social landlords to take over management of properties owned by irresponsible landlords. We’ll enhance the regulation of private sector landlords by introducing management standards.

Photo of tenements in Hyndland.

We’ll support local authorities who use prudential borrowing for housing investment, with new building to be delivered by a range of social landlords including housing associations and co-operatives.

We’ll begin a programme of investment in flats and tenements, funded by small grants and equity release loans, with a view to supporting energy efficiency, microrenewables, community heating systems, improved waste & recycling facilities, and conversion of back-court spaces for social use and food production.

I really appreciated students waiting to have a chat at the end of the hustings. There were really positive discussions about Green MSPs and their achievements, potential for electric cars and closure partnership working between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and development of renewable energy or energy efficiency initiatives within University buildings.

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