« Greg Clark MP: Has Labour changed? No, it hasn't. Brown's heirs are in charge. | Main | Daniel Hannan MEP: Thomas Jefferson, Anglosphere hero »

Henry Hill Red, White and Blue

Henry Hill: Scotland scraps right to buy, and Wales introduces opt-out organ donation

Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Scotland brings an end to ‘right to buy’

‘Right to buy’, the savage Thatcherite policy of turning poor people into homeowners, is apparently to be scrapped completely by the SNP government. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is going to confirm the administration’s decision during a visit to a Glasgow housing development. The scheme has already been closed to new tenants – and in some places, there has even been talking of buying back ex-council properties.

All of this contrasts with England, where the government has injected new life into the programme and seen results.

The article above linked suggests the reason for the SNP’s decision is that right to buy has reduced levels of public housing stock (which it almost certainly has), and thus increased waiting lists for low-rent accommodation. This connexion between right to buy and housing shortages was also made last Thursday on Question Time: Extra Time, where I was a guest.

Surely the greater problem is that there simply isn’t enough housing stock, public or private, to match demand in the places that need it. Blaming right to buy for this is puzzling as, were that programme not in place, many right to buy tenants would still be occupying their council houses. The notion that every council house sold represents people who could have moved out into the normal private housing market is surely wide of the mark.

Wales adopts ‘opt-out’ organ donation

The Welsh Assembly has legislated so that people dying in Wales will be presumed to have consented to donating their organs unless they have explicitly opted out of the scheme. AMs hope that this will lead to a 25 per cent increase in donors.

Happily, organs harvested in Wales can be sent anywhere in the country and, with only 30 per cent or so of organs harvested in Wales transplanted into a Welsh resident, this move could benefit patients across the UK – provided that Wales doesn’t actually see a reduction in overall organ numbers, as has happened in some other places that have introduced presumed consent.

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford was keen to make sure that everybody knew how progressive they were being: "Wales is a progressive nation and this is a progressive policy for that progressive nation," said he. Despite that, it may well still prove a good idea.

No consensus on an opposition for Stormont

To someone unfamiliar with Northern Ireland’s history, the Northern Ireland Assembly looks the way a parliament might look if it were designed by one of those teachers that likes to ruin sports day. Everybody who gets anywhere in an election gets a prize, and nobody loses.

One outcome of this is that the Northern Ireland executive, which wields a broad range of devolved powers, has nobody to scrutinise it and hold it to account. There are no shadow ministers, and with every party with any strength complicit in governance there’s not much manpower left in any case. It wouldn’t be quite true to say that there’s no opposition at all, but the TUV’s Jim Allister can’t be everywhere at once.

This state of affairs is set to continue after the various parties of the NI Executive failed to agree on establishing an official opposition. Northern Ireland will have to live without executive scrutiny for a while longer.

The challenge, as ever, is how to weaken the all-must-have-prizes nature of the Assembly without eroding its cross-community focus. Without some sort of mandatory cross-communal coalition the chamber would either settle into an uneasily tight unionist deadlock, as per the old Parliament, or careen between unionist and nationalist domination. Neither outcome would do anything either to make the province more stable or to normalise its politics (as the sectarian headcount would become more important than ever).

But if the DUP and Sinn Fein are bound together, the smaller parties needn’t be. The SDLP, UUP or Alliance could each decide to forgo its share of seats on the executive in order to move into opposition, a position which could offer from freedom from the collective responsibility of the government and increased media attention. As yet, however, none of them have managed to resist the lure of the government positions guaranteed them by their vote share.

Scottish troops prefer the British army

According to a poll by the Henry Jackson Society, a strong majority of Scottish soldiers currently serving in the UK armed forces would prefer to continue such service rather than join a separate Scotland’s own ‘defence forces’ (‘armies’ presumably being nasty, right-wing, reactionary things).

The HJS approached officers in Scottish battalions, who then questioned their men and passed on the results, after the MoD declined to conduct a large-scale poll of Scottish troops. Researcher George Grant has also authored a paper for the HJS on the SNP’s defence policy for an independent Scotland (or lack thereof).

Whilst not sounding methodologically watertight (no careful weighting of the poll sample, and so on), it nonetheless provides an interesting insight into the attitudes of armed forces personnel towards the independence issue. With the army being one of the strongest pan-British institutions still in existence, it wouldn’t surprise me if they polled much stronger for the Union than Scots as a whole. We’d need more polling to draw any real conclusions on that front, though.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.