Homes Not Roads

Something of a frustrating morning as, in my capacity as Head of Policy for Shelter Scotland, I waited patiently for BBC Radio Scotland’s “Call Kay” programme to take my scheduled question to John Swinney, the Finance Minister, about why the housing budget was being cut by a massive 35%.

After an hour the producer told me they had run out of time.  Fortunately. all was not lost as Ian Baxter of Midlothian Greens had already been on asking the Minister why he was spending money on a third road bridge over the Forth rather than spending on good quality, affordable homes.

Why indeed?  Mr Swinney’s wiggle-room may be less than that of George Osborne but, as the Independent Budget Review showed, he still has choices.  Why maintain the council tax freeze when council services are being starved of investment?  And, in a limited capital budget why make roads the priority?  Why, in particular, as Transform Scotland has argued make the Forth Bridge such a shibboleth?

After all, is not the demand for a new bridge simply coming from the increased mass of commuters who, priced out the Edinburgh market have turned west Fife into a suburb of the capital?  Better to sort that at source with affordable housing than to sucumb to the self-fulfilling prophecy of a new bridge.

Mr Swinney had choices.  He just made the wrong ones.