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Tenants occupation in Glasgow

friendofzanetti | 24.06.2005 13:09 | Culture | Free Spaces | Repression | Social Struggles

Yesterday, Tuesday the 21st of june, tenants from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee occupied the offices of 'Communities Scotland' to protest the run-down of basic services and the erasure of publicly-funded housing in Scotland. They sent out a message that they are organised and willing to resist New Labour's privatisation agenda for housing in Scotland.

In Glasgow yesterday, tenants from housing estates in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee completed an audacious occupation of the ‘Communities Scotland’ Building in Highlander House, 58 Waterloo Street, right in the centre of Glasgow's financial district. Around thirty protestors and a video crew from pilton video in edinburgh, casually made their way upstairs to the community Scotland boardroom, where they ‘sat-in’, singing songs and demanding that their voices be heard. Communities Scotland representative’s sat ashen-faced as the tenants argued their position, and a demand was made for an immediate consultation with Malcolm Chisholm, the Communities Scotland minister who oversees the stock transfer from council to 'private' landlords.

The protest related in particular to the proposed run-down of the concierge service in Glasgow (concierge’s deal with first line repairs and maintenance, security of buildings and tenant problems generally). Many tenants feel that concierge services will be run-down deliberately, as part of a long-term New Labour project to prepare tenants for the buildings eventual demolition.

In effect, the tenants will be exposed to grim and trying conditions in order to ‘persuade’ them that a move to private landlords may be in their best interests. Owen McIntee, one of the occupants, a 68 year old tenant from Sighthill, said, "...I think the estate will be run down as a deliberate policy by Glasgow Housing Association, if they can reduce the service and run-down the blocks to a state of decay, then that gives them the excuse to demolish, and clear the way for private development to move in and create yuppie flats, because Sighthill is ideally located for easy access to the city centre...we've seen the same thing in places like Manchester and Liverpool, it's privatisation by stealth".

The occupation received solidarity from the ‘Glasgow Save Our Homes’ campaign, ‘Dundee Defend Council Housing’, and ‘Edinburgh Against Stock Transfer’ (EAST), with all of the tenants showing great bravery and imagination. The wider picture at stake is the future of council housing in Scotland. The stock transfer of council housing to housing association organisations is being promoted by New Labour across Scotland, with the eventual target of zero council housing.

Aberdeen and Dundee have already rejected the stock transfer in their cities with powerful and effective campaigns mounted at short notice with very little resources. In Glasgow, the stock transfer only marginally went through, despite Glasgow City Council massively subsidising the pro-transfer campaign, and the media colluding to ignore the arguments to retain council housing.

Glasgow Save Our Homes, the organisers of the occupation, continue to campaign for council housing despite the loss, and have formed a powerful critique of the stock transfer to Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), pointing out a democratic deficit, dictatorial ‘tenants management committees’, broken promises on retaining low rents, and the wider agenda of gentrification programmes within the city centre, which will price out the traditional working-class communities along the River Clyde and result in the further ghetto-isation of an already besieged Glasgow.

In November, the stock transfer ballot will take place in Edinburgh. Edinburgh Against Stock Transfer have promised to defend council housing against privatisation, and the Glasgow and Dundee groups have promised solidarity in the fight. This struggle shows that working-class communities, alongside interested parties, across Scotland are prepared to organise effectively and creatively against yet another privatisation programme in the basic social services which have been fought for throughout this century.

The problems the tenants across Scotland face, point to the kind of problems faced everywhere globally, with the wider neo-liberal agenda pushing capital through national, regional, and local space with profit as its primary motive, privatisation of space itself the ultimate aim. The social welfare and physical and psychological health of the communities who face relocation and disruption through these massive changes in the urban fabric is rarely, if ever, taken into account.

What is required is a strong campaign of resistance led by the tenants themselves, but supported by all who have an interest in resisting the dominant neo-liberal privatisation model. To that end, plans to organise deeper links between tenants across scotland have been established, and discussions are in place for an extended symposium (much like the one that took place between the tenants during the occupation), between architects, planners, tenants and activists. the hope is to create arguments and practical solutions for a genuinely new model of social housing, rather than the cheap, shoddy, ill-considered, un-imaginative crap the Scottish Executive intend to foist on us.



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