*These articles first appeared in the Daily Record on 05/06/18*
IN one hostel, 90 tenants have access to a shared microwave.
The last time I spoke to a man who was living there, the microwave had been broken for three days. The occupants have no access to a cooker; and breakfast is often a slice of white bread with margarine.
People are put up in small rooms, sharing space with terrified strangers, or with addicts, and are kicked out at 9am each morning with nowhere to go.
These hostels are no places for women in particular. One young woman told how she was staying in a hostel where most of the residents were men, and she was sharing a filthy bathroom for up to 14 people.
This is not in some distant land, this is in Edinburgh. This is the reality of the housing crisis facing Scotland.
The number of homeless households temporarily housed in hostels has increased by 43 per cent since 2010, research published yesterday found. Separate research from Scottish Labour show that 50,000 additional children are living in poverty because of high housing costs.
A home should be a basic fundamental human right. But a decade of SNP complacency on housing and rising rental costs has had a devastating impact.
Austerity is a political choice. It’s the choice made by David Cameron and Theresa May, and it’s the choice made by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
It’s also the future choice for an independent Scotland, as the SNP’s Growth Commission report has revealed in stark detail.
Rather than a government at Westminster obsessed with harming the economy through Brexit, and a government at Holyrood obsessed with harming the economy through independence, I want governments which are focused on building a more equal society.
We must end the housing crisis by building more homes for social rent and reforming the private rented sector.
In Edinburgh, there are proposals to build 20,000 affordable homes over the next decade, but fewer than half the number required were completed last year.
Under the SNP, the country is not building enough homes or quickly enough, leaving thousands of people languishing on waiting lists.
We need new legislation to regulate the private rented sector to ensure nobody is forced to rent a home which pushes them into poverty, and we should invest a proportion of local government pensions funds in social housing to boost supply.
I know many people reading this will share my outrage that their fellow citizens are being so let down by the system. There will be others who are struggling to pay their bills and fear this could be their future. And there will be many reading this in the comfort of their own homes, thinking ‘well this isn’t my problem’.
The reality is that the housing crisis should concern us all. Because we’re all paying for it.
Rich landlords are cashing in on taxpayers’ money while people live in squalor.
When it comes to the priorities facing this country, it’s time that housing is mentioned in the same breath as hospitals and schools.
 

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Sometimes nothing really beats curling up on the sofa and watching a Sunday night drama on the BBC. The evening slot is usually reserved for something warm and fuzzy like Call the Midwife or a period drama where the corsets are tighter than the plot lines.

This week though was the finale of A Very English Scandal, based on the true story of Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe and his attempts to hide a homosexual affair.
It’s topical because tomorrow (WED) the Scottish Parliament will pardon and apologise again to all the men convicted of the crime of loving or just having casual sex with another man, disregarding those convictions from their records. It’s a big moment – but not the final piece in the jigsaw by any stretch of the imagination.
For LGBT people to be truly included we need the same level of acceptance in every corner and community of the land.
Today, 40 per cent of the young people who present as homeless at Edinburgh’s Rock Trust do so because they thought it would be OK to come out to their parents.
And, around the world, the Britain of the 1960s is the Uganda, Libya, Somalia and Malawi of today. To be who you are and live your life freely is a human right.
June marks the start of Pride Month, where LGBT people and their allies will march across Scotland’s towns and cities.
We should continue to demand action across the globe, and stand strong against any hint of complacency at home.
 

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Respecting devolution is absolutely essential. It’s at the forefront of why the Tories are screwing up Brexit so badly. It’s also why I’m reluctant to back the demands some have made for the UK Government to legislate for abortion in Northern Ireland while Stormont is inactive.
I can imagine the fury if someone decided somewhere that a law should be imposed on a devolved area of policy in Scotland. That just wouldn’t be right.
Yet I’m less willing to take lectures on undue influence from Arlene Foster – the DUP leader whose party is singlehandedly propping up a deeply unpopular Tory Government.

Arlene Foster will visit Cowdenbeath in the coming weeks to take part in an Orange Order march.
I hope Nicola Sturgeon will make a point of inviting her to Edinburgh to talk about Brexit, but separately to discuss the desperate need for compassionate abortion reform in Northern Ireland. There are woman serving jail sentences there for aborting pregnancies caused by rapists with shorter sentences. That’s an absolute outrage.
Labour MP Stella Creasy has found a way to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland without interfering with devolution. The SNP should back that to the hilt too.
 

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THIS time last year, General Election campaigning was suspended for a second time following a heinous terrorist attack.
On the one-year anniversary of the London Bridge attack, we remember those who tragically lost their lives, and our thoughts are with those still struggling with grief.
As the Prime Minister said this week, our country’s resolve to stand firm against terrorism has never been stronger. When all communities stand united, evil will never win.
 

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Congratulations to Lee Ridley, better known as Lost Voice Guy, who won the Britain’s Got Talent final.

The comedian is hilarious, and deserves his prize of performing at the Royal Variety Performance. Lee’s refusal to let cerebral palsy hold him back from achieving his dreams will inspire millions across the country.
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