Scandal. What a great word. We love to use it in politics to ham up the latest bit of drama or conflict among powers that be.
As a consequence it’s over-used – and then loses its impact. A shame really, because there’s no better word for what’s happening with Edinburgh’s housing situation at the mo. The long and short of it is this: our council tax cash is being used to pay landlords the full bhuna for housing you wouldn’t let a hamster sleep in.
People who declare themselves homeless to the council, no matter their circumstances, are placed in hostels or B&Bs as a temporary measure. Except, some of my constituents have been in these for several months.
Imagine living in a small room with no cooking facilities for months on end. Imagine having to leave at 9am every morning, even if you’ve got nowhere to go. It’s hard enough to feed yourself living on benefits, but how do you do it without a stove? Your neighbours are troubled and scared, addicts and strangers.
One constituent of mine at the moment is living in a hostel where 90 tenants have access to one shared microwave. Last time I spoke to him, it had been broken for three days. This is shocking and degrading in its own right, and we’d should be angry. But get angrier, because we’re paying for it. Somewhere there’s a rich landlord flicking through a bundle of notes while his guests eat white bread and margarine before they’re chucked out of the front door.
We can debate whose fault it is and what should be done, but the bottom line is this: we’re all responsible. We need to build houses, and quick. But we also need to ask why our taxes continue to prop up this shocking racket.