Scottish Social Housing, Bedroom Taxes and UK Politics-oh my!

I always enjoy writing about something that is common knowledge in one country but is completely new to most in other countries. I am about to take on a complicated subject and try to wrap it in 650 words or less.

For most people in the whole of America, and many other EU countries, the words bedroom tax do not mean anything.   However; in the UK it has been a hotly debated topic since 2012/2013.  Let me explain it very quickly for those who are new to the subject.

If a household has a spare bedroom and live in a a public/social housing unit in the UK a tax of sorts was levied against them.  Basically if a household is deemed over-housed (again more bedrooms than occupancy code calls for) the housing subsidy is reduced.  I will not get too specific but the tax looked like this:

  • Having one spare bedroom meant losing 14% of your entitled housing benefit.
  • Having two or more spare bedrooms meant losing 25% of your entitlement.

You can google the term “bedroom tax” and get more logistical information about exceptions, criticisms, and rules.  The fact is that the rule went into place and was extremely unpopular in the social housing world.  The good folks in Scotland were particularly against the idea. However; Scotland was a part of the UK and that meant that they had to live with the bedroom tax whether they liked it or not.

Political Changes:

In 2014, Scotland nearly left the UK in a semi-close referendum vote.  While Scotland stayed in the UK, some agreements were made to devolve some powers to Scotland. Some of the aspects of housing welfare were negotiated and Scotland received more say in social housing policy for the country.   See more here-

In 2016, the Scottish Government moved to use their new powers and abolish the bedroom tax.  They argued that a lack of social housing units meant that those over-housed had no where to move to and in addition was hard on households with disabilities. The Scottish government is currently off-setting the taxes by kicking in 47 million pound per year to protect households.  They will look to completely remove the rule as soon as possible.

Real Power?

Scotland is moving to rid itself of the dreaded bedroom tax but now they must negotiate with Westminster. The rubber is meeting the road and Scotland is testing its new found powers.  The fear in Scotland is that Westminster will in effect pick the pockets of Scottish social housing tenants on one end as Scotland looks to lower the residents burden on the other end.  The fight right now focuses on something being described as a clawback.

Much like the USA and other countries, there is a cap on how much government benefit can be had by a person or family.  Scotland is worried that the reduction in bedroom tax to an estimated 70,000 Scottish residents will be treated in Westminster like they just received extra benefit.  That would mean some people might end up going over the cap and lose some or all of their benefits. More here-


It will be interesting to see how Westminster works with the Scottish Government on this issue.  The long-term protection of Scottish social housing residents is at stake.   If you live in the UK or are involved in this, what do you say?  What do you think the future will bring?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s