Bedroom Tax no more in Scotland – with Scottish Liberal Democrat support

It’s been a big week for the Scottish Parliament. On Tuesday, Holyrood passed a much stronger equal marriage bill than we have south of the border. Yesterday it passed a budget which, with different ideas incorporated from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, will make a huge difference to many people in Scotland.

The Holyrood budget process is very different. You’d never find George Osborne publishing his budget 3 months in advance, letting all parties contribute to the process and then putting an amended budget through Parliament incorporating new ideas. It’s to Finance Secretary John Swinney’s great credit that he adopts such a collaborative approach even when his party has an overall majority. In 2009, when they had a minority administration, there was high drama when the budget was voted down. After a bit of delicate negotiation, everyone stepped back from the precipice and sorted it all out, though.

One major thing about the budget yesterday is that a Labour amendment to mitigate the full effects of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland was supported not just by the Government, eventually, after much last minute negotiation. The amendment said:

That the Parliament agrees that the Budget (Scotland) (No.3) Bill be passed but, in so doing, considers that funds be allocated in the total amount needed to fully mitigate the so-called bedroom tax in Scotland through discretionary housing payments and, if necessary, other schemes administered by local authorities and housing associations to ensure that no tenant need face eviction as a result of the bedroom tax.

What is not so widely known is that among the list of those voting for this amendment are the names Rennie, Hume, McInnes, McArthur and Scott. The five Liberal Democrat MSPs voted in accordance with the wishes of Scottish Liberal Democrat conference last year. Let’s hope that that sentiment goes forward into the manifesto development process. Labour have promised to repeal it and so should we. Overcrowding is a problem, but this is not the way to deal with it. If someone is expected to pay extra for something then they need to have the opportunity to avoid it and in many areas there simply aren’t smaller properties for them to move into. It’s unfair and it needs to be abolished.

In terms of exclusively Liberal Democrat input in the budget, free school meals and a significant expansion of nursery education for 2 year olds are big wins, and Willie Rennie, who has spent the last year and a half pressing for more and better childcare, has been appointed to the Scottish Government’s Early Year’s Task Force. Willie said yesterday:

Parents will be glad that the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Government have worked together constructively to secure this important expansion of free childcare for two-year-olds.

The SNP Government’s agreement with our plans enables us to vote with a budget which we believe will enable more people to get on in life.

It is a significant achievement that by 2015, 15,400 more two-year-olds will have walked through the doors of nurseries to take up their free place. By giving more children the best start in life, Scottish Liberal Democrats have helped to secure the fairer society we all wish to see. I am sure that the parents, who will be able to return to work, and the people who will see more jobs in the nursery sector, will be grateful for this victory of common-sense.

In supporting the Scottish Government’s Early Years Taskforce to deliver these new places I will be bringing the experiences of the many parents I met during my 18 month campaign to the SNP to extend childcare. I will also be drawing from the common issues on childcare which my expert summit highlighted last year.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Joshua Dixon 6th Feb '14 - 12:29pm

    Very good news! Shame we haven’t similar action from the party here in the rest of Britain!

  • For those of us outside Scotland, can we be absolutely clear that all the parties in Scotland other than the Tories have voted to get rid of the bedroom tax?

    And that all of the Liberal Democrat MSPs voted against the Tories to achieve this sensible and popular decision?

    And that as Caron puts it –” The five Liberal Democrat MSPs voted in accordance with the wishes of Scottish Liberal Democrat conference last year.”?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Feb '14 - 1:49pm

    Tim, it come out of the Scottish block grant and any consequential monies that come from new initiatives in England. The Scottish government is at liberty to spend it how it sees fit. Don’t worry, no extra money will be coming from English taxpayers to pay for this that wouldn’t have been coming our way already.

    John, yes, good, isn’t it?

  • Peter Watson 6th Feb '14 - 3:02pm

    I’ve given up on the UK Lib Dems, but if the Scots vote against independence next year, is there any hope that Scottish Lib Dems could field candidates south of the border in 2015? 😉

  • @Peter, one of the great joys of the Scottish Liberal Democrats is that we can (and do) have policies which are completely different and in some cases opposite to each other. This is one of them. It’s why I still feel I can support Willie and the party in a Scottish context, even if I find it more difficult to do so more widely.

  • Steve Griffiths 6th Feb '14 - 3:44pm

    The bedroom tax is a pernicious piece of legislation and has been discussed on LDV several times before. I’m glad to see the Scottish Lib Dems vote this way and in my view they have retained their integrity by voting in accordance with their conference wishes. At Westminster it was voted through largely by MPs who have had little of no experiences of social housing.

  • By “to each other”, I mean of course to the English and UK Liberal Democrats. We’re not UKIP, after all…

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 6th Feb '14 - 4:04pm

    At last the Liberal Democrats have voted the right way and redeemed themselves. In Scotland!

  • Why should young people starting out in the world of work and flat-sharing pay for others to have spare rooms?

  • Steve Griffiths 6th Feb '14 - 4:28pm
  • Caron Lindsay 6th Feb ’14 – 1:49pm
    John, yes, good, isn’t it?

    Caron, yes indeed, it is very good. It shows it can be done. it shows that ou do not have to be in a colitioo achieve It shows that Liberal Democrats can vote for party policy. Well done you Scots.

    It demonstrates that there is an alternative to propping up a morally bankrupt bunh of Tories who carry out a vendetta against the poor (see Suzanne Moore in today’s Guardian).

  • In theory the bedroom tax should be reducing homelessness net, as e.g. one person in a two-bed property is replaced by two people in the same home. Is there any evidence yet as to whether this is working I wonder?

    Also, am I right in thinking this is just the reversal of “phase 2” bedroom tax (council / housing association) and doesn’t cover the 2008 (private tenants) version?

  • Jen…
    As I understand it (and a Labour councillor has confirmed in detail), the 2008 version applied only to new tenancies. If the social housing version had adopted the same approach, it would have been more reasonable (and probably would have cost less).

  • @Steve Griffiths,

    The only parts of that I find convincing are the parts related to people with disabilities. For the rest, if a spare bedroom is a need, then surely working people have has much right to a subsidy in order to afford one. Except of course we don’t have advocates so no self-described liberal cares about us.

  • FormerLibDem 8th Feb '14 - 8:09pm

    If it weren’t for the votes of Lib Dem MP’s there wouldn’t be a Bedroom Tax in the first place!

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