One of the workshop streams at the Scot.E3 conference in November was devoted to housing. This report is from Mike Downham who was one of the facilitators of the discussion.
- Housing in Scotland is a disgrace – from the Muirhead tower blocks to new-build. A participant from Hungary, who has been in Glasgow for a year or so and has had extreme difficulties in finding somewhere to live and which is affordable to heat, said that Scotland’s housing compares very badly with Hungary’s, which at least has thick walls. “You’ve got to do something about it”.
- Student housing. The Universities are supplying student housing which is unaffordable except for wealthy students, mostly from the Far East, and make it difficult for most students to find less expensive accommodation. There has been a lot of public criticism about students having such high quality housing, while many citizens are homeless. But the reality is that the majority of students have huge difficulties in finding housing they can afford to rent and heat. It’s not unusual for them to end up on someone else’s sofa.
- Commodification of housing since 1980 is at the root of the housing crisis in Scotland. Housing policy has been primarily aimed at growing the national economy, instead of housing being recognised as a human right.
- What we can do together towards a just transition in Scotland’s Housing:
- Demand that Councils bring building standards up to passive-house specifications and replace building control jobs lost in the name of austerity, without which new housing can’t be adequately inspected. These changes are perfectly feasible for Councils.
- Put pressure on the Scottish Government to ensure that the new Scottish Investment Bank will direct enough funding to build the new houses needed (this is urgent – the Scottish Investment Bank Bill is going through parliament now).
- Put pressure on Pension Funds to invest in housing.
- Support grass-roots protest as demonstrated by Living Rent’s support for Muirhouse tenants, which started with door-knocking to get all tenants’ views.
- Suggest to XR that they target some of their direct action on grass-roots projects such as Muirhouse
- Suggest that grass-roots projects such as Muirhouse deliver their demands to the COP 26 – to both the formal and the alternative meetings.
- Keep in our sites the eventual objective of a National Housing Company through which communities will choose the type of housing, local facilities and green species they need
- Climate is just one part of the wider argument – so the challenge for the Climate Movement is to build links with all other movements concerned with social injustice.
- “We need to close this down” – just as we would have no hesitation in doing if there was a proposal to build an asbestos factory at the end of our street. Though this was said in respect of the climate polluters, the fact that it was said in a discussion on Housing, Health and Fuel Poverty suggests that it should be our approach to all forms of social and planetary injustice.
Image (Construction of the Passive House) CC BY SA 2.0 from Sustainable Sanitation Alliance
The final speaker in the session on climate jobs was Clara Paillard. Clara is President of the PCS Union’s Culture section, a member of Red Green Labour and active in the Campaign Against Climate Change.
The second speaker in the session on climate jobs was David Brockett from the Unite Rank and File group.
The afternoon of the conference began with a plenary session on Climate Jobs. Eurig Scandrett, representing UCU Scotland, was the first of three speakers.
Mary, who is Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland followed on from Simon Pirani. In her contribution she talked about the Scottish context and the need to mobilise for COP26 when it’s held in Glasgow in 2020. You can watch the video of her speaking here.
In the second plenary session of the conference Simon Pirani and Mary Church reflected on the growth of the climate movement and the challenges we face. This post includes video of most of Simon’s contribution. He began by reflecting on the connections between some of the struggles for just transition highlighted in the REEL News films and the onslaught on working class communities that took place in the Miner’s Strike of 1984/5. Miners were fighting for their communities and lives and livelihoods. He argued that in the context of climate crisis we are defending communities no less than we were in 1984/1985.
Simon was clear that there is a still an argument to win. Some trade unionists suggest that jobs and climate action are in opposition. He argued that this a false choice – without system change we face disaster on an unimaginable scale – our fight is for effective action and social justice. Each depends on the other.
The first two sessions of the conference aimed to set the scene for the discussion on the politics and practice of just transition that followed. First up was Shaun Day from REEL News. The idea of just transition has deep roots in the USA and goes back to the 1990’s.
In 2018, Reel News went on a 14 week tour of North America to look at grassroots struggles around climate change, particularly struggles around a “just transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy, where workers and communities control the process so that they benefit from the transition, and around “just recovery” – recovery from extreme weather events which do not exacerbate current inequalities.
The documentary films that they made, while in the US, record inspiring and visionary struggles all over the continent, led by working class communities of colour, with people organising just transitions and just recoveries themselves.
Shaun showed short extracts from eight of the American Climate Rebels films:
Building a social and solidarity economy in Jackson, Mississippi
Taking on the oil giant Chevron in Richmond, California
Fighting injustice, pollution, environmental damage and police oppression in Los Angeles
People United for Sustainable Housing in Buffalo
Kentucky Miners fighting for renewable energy
Towards a zero carbon, zero waste city – New York
Hurricane Harvey – just recovery in Texas
Minnesota – stopping the tar sands pipeline
Image by Leslie Peterson CC BY NC 2.0 Stand with Standing Rock
The final speaker session of the ScotE3 conference on 16th November will see Jonathon Shafi from Common Weal talking about their new campaign for a Green New Deal for Scotland – Our Common Home
You can register for the conference on Eventbrite or simply register on the day at St Ninian’s Hall, Greyfriars Charteris Centre, 138/140 Pleasance, Edinburgh EH8 9RR. Doors open at 9.30am and the conference starts at 10am.
The first session after the lunch break at Saturday’s Scot.E3 conference focuses in on the campaign for climate jobs. Find out more about the conference here. Book for the conference on Eventbrite
This quote from the Million Climate Jobs Pamphlet explains the critical importance of these jobs to the transition to a zero carbon economy.
’Climate Jobs’ are not the same as ‘green jobs’. Some green jobs help the climate, but ‘green jobs’ can mean anything – park rangers, bird wardens, pollution control, or refuse workers. All these jobs are necessary, but they do not stop climate change.
Climate Jobs are jobs that lead directly to cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases, and so slow down climate change. For instance, workers who build wind farms replace power stations that burn coal or oil. Workers who insulate buildings reduce the oil and gas we burn. Bus drivers reduce the amount of oil we burn in cars.
You can read more about climate jobs from the pamphlet online on the Campaign Against Climate Change website
Speakers in the session are Clara Paillard, an activist in the PCS Union and the Campaign Against Climate Change, Davie Brockett from Unite Rank and File and Eurig Scandrett on behalf of UCU Scotland.
In order to ensure that we have the right level of support on the day of the ScotE3 conference we are not able to take creche bookings after 5pm on Wednesday 13th. If you want to book a creche place please email email@example.com before then.