Such was the reaction from Scotland’s tenants’ union Living Rent to the Scottish Government’s long-overdue announcement that regulations will be introduced to legally prevent any evictions during the six-week period from 11 December to 22 January. The ban will make it impossible to evict anyone without evidence of anti-social behaviour, in contrast with previous rules which allowed for evictions to take place if tenants were given notice before the outbreak of Covid-19.
Living Rent’s satisfaction is entirely justified, as was their dogged determination to provoke such an outcome over the past year. The necessity of a comprehensive eviction ban was most recently made clear – as if it needed to be – by the case of Livingstone resident Lorraine Robinson-Moseley, a mother and full-time carer for her son, who made a desperate plea to the first minister after being informed they were to be evicted this week.
They weren’t the only ones: As Mike Dailly wrote in the Glasgow Times earlier this week, in the last three months to October, “272 evictions actions were raised for rent arrears, with eviction decrees granted in 46 cases. Evictions are happening in Scotland this winter during lockdown in Scotland.”
Until now, the Scottish Government had spent the pandemic sowing confusion by repeatedly referring to its extension of eviction notice periods as an “eviction ban”, and wasted time appealing to landlords’ better natures rather than imposing strict rules upon them. The prioritisation of landlord interests over those of tenants was further demonstrated by the creation of a landlord loan fund months before the announcement of a tenant hardship fund.
In light of this disappointing record, the Scottish Government’s introduction of an eviction ban worth the name has been widely welcomed, particularly by Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman, who correctly noted that it would have been preferable if ministers had simply listened to his proposals in May and prevented the anyone at all being served notices during the crisis. The housing charity Shelter Scotland also offered congratulations to all those campaigners who fought for this outcome, but warned: “This is a very short-term fix. We will still need permanent solutions.”
So what has this victory for Scotland’s tenants taught us? For activists like those in Living Rent, it has offered not only proof of their own effectiveness, but vindication for their refusal to compromise. The tenants’ union has never shared the Scottish Government’s mysterious faith in Scotland’s landlords to be “flexible” over the course of the pandemic, and why should they? As reported by the Scottish investigative journalism platform The Ferret as far back as August, some were serving eviction notices to tenants on the very day lockdown measures in Scotland were introduced. Landlords, as always, have their priorities in order. Those who believe in the rights of tenants must do the same.
More broadly, the question has been raised once again of why measures fit for a crisis cannot be put into effect the rest of the time. There is absolutely no good reason why Scotland should not seek to replicate the French ‘winter truce’, or trêve hivernale, which officially prohibits evictions between 1 November and 31 March, as well as protecting tenants from having their utilities shut off, regardless of unpaid bills.
The rationale is simple: during the most unforgiving time of the year, you don’t put people out on the street. As a Living Rent spokesperson put it: “An eviction ban shouldn’t just be for Christmas.”
Source Direct is a free morning newsletter providing you with all the latest Scottish news in your inbox each morning, including:
- Analysis of the key stories
- A summary of what’s in the Scottish papers
- The latest on Source
- Interesting opinion pieces from around Scottish media
To sign-up for Source Direct, click here.