A hodgepodge approach to housing

Some unfortunate words about immigrants, the government's peculiar approach to green energy and the

Dear Marina,

I am very upset. I have always been a loyal socialist albeit in a slightly patrician and up myself kind of a way. I recently said British families should be given housing priorities over immigrants and now that ghastly Alan Johnson has compared my language (aspirational Islingtonian) with the BNP's (inarticulate and trashy). What does the dreadful little postie think he's up to?
 
Yours MH,
Barking/Islington

 
Stupid woman! Even the Tories under Michael Howard understood you could only ask: “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” No one expects a Labour luvvy to come out with a blatantly racist attitude to social welfare and justice.

All councils, as I understand it, operate a points system whereby one’s points increase with time on the waiting list and all other points are awarded for various aspects of deprivation. More points for children, being a single parent, having more adults than bedrooms, illness, disability and so forth.

I am not aware that any council takes into consideration the country of origin of those eligible for housing allocation. Indeed it’s probably a sackable offence to do so.

Allow me to enlighten you with a few facts.

Migrationwatch argues Government household projections are based on a "false assumption" that net immigration would be about 65,000 a year.
Between 1996 and 2004, however, it had averaged 140,000 annually, says the group, which spends much money fighting the false bogeyman that is “mass immigration.”

It concludes that 70% of the 370,000 housing shortfall - totalling 260,000 properties - had resulted from immigration above what had been anticipated.
So far so BNP friendly. Now consider rising demand for housing caused by people living alone.

The number of single person households increased from 2,977,000 in 1971 to 6,447,000 in 2006.

This trajectory is set to continue with people living alone accounting for 72% of annual housing growth by 2026. And no it’s not all single mums; it’s the elderly, professionals and divorcees too.

Meanwhile, over the last 30 years, the level of new house building has halved.

So yes Ms Hodge, we do face a housing crisis - caused by consecutive UK governments which not only failed to address, but have - through poor policy decisions - made worse the current housing shortage.

We can hardly blame the small-by-comparison number of people fleeing poverty and/or violence abroad – often as a result of our own foreign policies and increasingly our failure to act on climate change.

Since Alan’s message appears to have fallen on deaf ears, I suggest you send a note to self Mrs Hodge: engage brain before speaking. Otherwise your Hodgepodge approach to the facts leaves you vulnerable to accusations of being a bit of a BNP supporting idiot. And it’s a very poor look!

Dear Marina,

As a Christian I am concerned that we are not doing enough to combat climate change. My local parish council is keen to put solar panels on the church roof. But we’ve had no joy from the government whom it was assumed would want to help us. What do you suggest we do?

Green Worshiper

As a pagan, I agree. In a week when the government shows once again that its attitude to nuclear power, clearly, is a positive one it is obvious that all encouraging words on renewables have been nowt but piss and wind.

Example: Gordon Brown announces an extra £6 million funding for the Low Carbon Buildings Trust which provides grants for renewable energy projects. But two hours later the DTI closes down the scheme. It’s a case of talk global, postpone local, wouldn’t you say?

Grants are back on next week, but the drop in recent business for renewable companies of between 40 and 60% mean many already have their noses squashed up against the wall as their businesses collapse.

The DTI is obviously shagging the nuclear industry – in bed with is just too polite under the circumstances – and until that sorry department is abolished, we’ll have no positive way forward.

So why not launch a project to ensure every home in your parish is equipped with energy efficient light bulbs – a switch of 27 million bulbs would see this country’s energy needs reduced by two power stations.

If you still want to push ahead with a micro generation project, you now have to apply via the utilities companies, who frankly, have no interest in us switching power generation supplies, but have been tasked with the job anyway. God I’m depressed.

Dear Marina,

I can't believe it, the divorce (on hygiene grounds) was bad enough but now the ex has just robbed me – legally! Apparently as the homemaker she's entitled to part of my £131million beer money. What I want to know is how come she's the homemaker when we have a staff of 15 Filipino maids and the pile was built by Poles?

Ill-used of Belgravia or somewhere

Get over yourself. She’s only had 45% of the wealth you acquired as a married couple. I’m sure if life had been different – say after sixth form, where you met, you still got together but now found yourselves in debt. Then you wouldn’t be quibbling over her taking on board half the overdraft, now would you?
Given you left her for tax reasons (moving to Bermuda! Lucky you), there must be savings in the kitty. Give your ex her dues and move on.

Can’t give this any more thought – the Tories are trying to cancel our annual town fireworks display – I have some serious rebellion to organise. Not only that, but it’s the start of the festival season – so once I’ve got the local youths rioting, I’m off for a hot date round a campfire. Peace and love all. Will blog from a field next week – power supplied by renewable technologies OBVIOUSLY!!!!

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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Winning Scottish independence will be even harder than before - but it may be the only choice

Independence campaigners will have to find answers on borders, currency and more. 

The Brexit mutiny has taken not just the UK economy and its relationship with Europe into uncharted waters. it has also imperilled the union between Scotland and England. From Sir John Major to the First Minister, both Unionists and Nationalists had warned of it. The outcome, though, has made this certain. The Leave vote in England and Wales contrasted with an overwhelming Remain vote north of the border.

That every region in Scotland voted to stay In was quite remarkable. Historically, fishing and industrial communities have blamed the European Union for their woes. That antagonism was probably reflected in lower turnout - an abstention rather than a rejection. 

The talk now is of a second referendum on independence. This is understandable given the current mood. Opinion polls in the Sunday Times and Sunday Post showed a Yes vote now at 52 per cent and 59 per cent respectively. Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests even arch No vote campaigners, from JK Rowling to the Daily Record, are considering the option.

The First Minister was therefore correct to say that a second referendum is now “back on the table”. Her core supporters expects no less. However, as with the economy and Europe, the constitutional relationship between Scotland and England is now in uncharted seas. Potential support for independence may be higher, but the challenges are arguably bigger than before. The difficulties are practical, political and geographic.

Of course the Little Englanders likely to take the helm may choose a velvet divorce. However, given their desire for the return of the Glories of Britannia that’s improbable. They’re as likely to wish to see Caledonia depart, as cede Gibraltar to Spain, even though that territory voted even more overwhelmingly In.

Ticking the legal boxes

Practically, there’s the obstacle of obtaining a legal and binding referendum. The past vote was based on the Edinburgh Agreement and legislation in Westminster and Holyrood. The First Minister has indicated the democratic arguments of the rights of the Scots. However, that’s unlikely to hold much sway. A right-wing centralist Spanish government has been willing to face down demands for autonomy in Catalonia. Would the newly-emboldened Great Britain be any different?

There are no doubt ways in which democratic public support can be sought. The Scottish Government may win backing in Holyrood from the Greens. However, consent for such action would need to be obtained from the Presiding Officer and the Lord Advocate, both of whom have a key role in legislation. These office holders have changed since the first referendum, where they were both more sympathetic and the legal basis clearer. 

Getting the EU on side

The political hurdles are, also, greater this time than before. Previously the arguments were over how and when Scotland could join the EU, although all accepted ultimately she could remain or become a member. This time the demand is that Scotland should remain and the rest of the UK can depart. But will that be possible? The political earthquake that erupted south of the Border has set tectonic plates shifting, not just in the British isles but across the European continent. The fear that a Brexit would empower dark forces in the EU may come to pass. Will the EU that the UK is about to leave be there for an independent Scotland to join? We cannot know, whatever European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker may be saying at the moment. The First Minister is right to start engaging with Europe directly. But events such as elections in France and the Netherlands are outwith her control. 

Moreover, currency was the Achilles heel in the last referendum, and hasn’t yet been addressed. George Osborne was adamant in his rejection of a currency union. The options this time round, whether a separate Scottish currency or joining the euro, have yet to be properly explored. A worsened financial situation in the 27 remaining EU members hampers the latter and the former remains politically problematic. 

The problem of borders

Geography is also an obstacle  that will be even harder to address now than before. Scotland can change its constitution, but it cannot alter its location on a shared island. In 2014, the independence argument was simply about changing the political union. Other unions, whether monarchy or social, would remain untouched. The island would remain seamless, without border posts. An independent Scotland, whether in or out of the EU, would almost certainly have to face these issues. That is a significant change from before, and the effect on public opinion unknown.

The risk that's worth it

Ultimately, the bar for a Yes vote may be higher, but the Scots may still be prepared to jump it. As with Ireland in 1920, facing any risk may be better than remaining in the British realm. Boris Johnson as Prime Minister would certainly encourage that. 

David Cameron's lack of sensitivity after the independence referendum fuelled the Scottish National Party surge. But perhaps this time, the new Government will be magnanimous towards Scotland and move to federalism. The Nordic Union offers an example to be explored. Left-wing commentators have called for a progressive alliance to remove the Tories and offer a multi-option referendum on Scotland’s constitution. But that is dependent on SNP and Labour being prepared to work together, and win the debate in England and Wales.

So, Indy Ref The Sequel is on the table. It won’t be the same as the first, and it will be more challenging. But, if there is no plausible alternative, Scots may consider it the only option.

Kenny MacAskill served as a Scottish National MSP between 2007 and 2016, and as Cabinet Secretary for Justice between 2007 and 2014.