Tory homes

Thatcher ‘built more social housing than SNP’

Social housing provision is lower than in the 1980s

More social housing was built in Scotland by the Thatcher government than by the SNP, according to new analysis.

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives, regularly derided for their policies in Scotland by the left-leaning nationalists, oversaw the building of 63,795 social homes in Scotland between 1979 and 1990, says research from estate agency DJ Alexander

Over a similar number of years between 2009 and 2020 the SNP was responsible for 56,823 completions .

This means that 12.3% more houses (6,972) were built for the social sector in Scotland by the Thatcher government compared to the current SNP administration.

The SNP government dismissed the analysis. A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Taking into account the impact of the Right to Buy policy which took more than half a million homes out of the social rented sector in Scotland after its introduction in 1980, these claims are entirely inaccurate.

“Since 2007, the Scottish Government has delivered 111,750 affordable homes, with over 78,000 for social rent. In the four years to 2021 we delivered over nine times more social rented homes per head of population than England, and our per capita spending on affordable housing is over three times higher than the UK Government’s.

“In the ten years since our Housing Act ended the right to Buy policy, we estimate up to 15,500 homes will remain in the sector available to renters now and in the future.”

According to DJ Alexander’s research, the peak year for Scottish social house building occurred in 1970 when 34,906 homes were completed. This was also the year when the most houses in total were built in all sectors with 43,126 completed across Scotland.

By 1978 the number of social houses being completed (11,335) was overtaken by private housing (14,443) and this has remained the case ever since.


In 2020 the total number of homes completed was 14,834 with just 4,200 in social housing. While the pandemic will have impacted this figure there have only been two years in the last decade when more than 20,000 homes have been completed in Scotland.

David Alexander, chief executive at DJ Alexander Scotland, commented: “We can see from these numbers that the shortage of homes in Scotland has been a long-term, growing issue and that successive governments in London and Edinburgh have simply not addressed the continued need to provide a regular supply of homes in the social housing sector.

“The result has seen demand constantly exceeding supply resulting in 132,000 people on the waiting list for social housing with little expectation of sufficient homes being provided for them in the coming decade.”

He added: “Scotland rightly remains a popular place to live and work yet housing remains an issue that is largely unplanned and disorganised. We need a coherent long term housing strategy which provides homes for people in the places where they want to live.”

One Comment to Thatcher ‘built more social housing than SNP’

  1. If you pick your parameters carefully enough you can prove almost anything with statistics. First of all, the Tories built mainly higher rent Housing Association properties. Secondly, at the same time stock was draining out of the system through the right to buy far faster than it was being built. Eventually 600,000 houses were lost before the “left-leaning” SNP stepped and stopped that. Third, the Tories were not building at a time of austerity. The SG has harder choices to make about where to spend its money. Finally, any comparison between now and four decades ago should take in the political, social and economic circumstances. This is a deeply flawed comparison

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