Monday 25 August 2003

I want my share

The saga of Scotland's right to buy legislation continues. As with all such matters, we can't depend on property owners to put up a principled defence of their rights:
Although none object to community ownership, they question the use of public funds for the First Minister’s plans.
But the use of public funds is at the heart of "community ownership". There has always been a "right to buy" for anyone with the necessary cash whenever an owner willingly puts his property on the market. No legislation was necessary to maintain that right.

Now, it is proposed to extend the phoney rights:

Jack McConnell, the First Minister, unveiled proposals to widen opportunities under the right-to-buy scheme, from settlements of 3,000 people to those of 10,000. This would mean an extra 117 communities being given first refusal on buying land if the owner puts it up for sale.

The entire Highlands and Islands outside Inverness would qualify, with places such as Stornoway, Thurso and Oban all able to mount a bid to buy land up for sale...

...He also hinted that the Scottish Land Fund, which was set up to help buy-outs, will be increased in line with demand for future takeovers. The fund was set up in 2001 with £10 million which has almost been spent, although a £5 million top-up was announced recently.

Mr McConnell added: "The budget is strong and has managed to maintain the buy-outs so far. We are committed to seeing this through."

McConnell talks about removing "the barriers to economic and social growth." The biggest barrier to such growth is uncertainty of property rights. If McConnell doesn't understand that he should visit Zimbabwe.

Let's look on the bright side, though. When this legislation is extended to the Lowlands, the Freedom and Whisky "community" will demand its share of public funding. I plan to live in Edinburgh Castle.