Scotland For Sale: Councils Offer Up Public Land at London Property Piss-Up

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Scottish councils have spent this week trying to flog off land to private developers at an exclusive property fair in London. The “Scottish Cities” consortium, representing local authorities from Scotland’s seven cities, were present at the three-day MIPIM UK event in Kensington, hawking their 36 page prospectus with a “wealth of opportunities for investors”. Other Scottish stands were also there, including Glasgow gentrification quango Clyde Gateway, who’ve  been trying to elicit a commercial partner for ongoing developments in the east end.

The MIPIM event is usually held in Cannes and has taken on a reputation as a week long piss up in which the great and good of the property world spend time “networking” and being wined and dined at the expense of taxpayer-funded regional investment bodies. Online guides on how to “get the most out of” your time at the event are widely available on industry websites, with one noting that although it’s best not to drink too much, this can prove difficult since “you get offered champagne the minute you arrive in the morning and it’s on offer throughout the rest of the day”.

Although the London event was no doubt lacking much of the glitz, glamour and private yacht parties of the annual Cannes knees-up, the rest of it appears to have been in a similar vein. Scottish efforts seem to have involved plying delegates with whisky and tablet, presumably in the hope that a drunken sugar rush would be enough to see them commit to investing £10m in a boutique hotel development outside Perth or something. Clyde Gateway, meanwhile, teamed up with east end craft beer outpost WEST Brewery to ensure their delegates were suitably catered for.

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For this privilege, delegates each paid upwards of £590 to attend. Scotland’s local authorities, meanwhile, forked out over £500 per square metre of exhibition space. It can therefore be safely assumed that total costs will have ran into tens of thousands to ensure Scotland’s representation at an event that amounts to little more than a land grab for billionaire property speculators. Fittingly, this week’s event was opened by doyen of social cleansing, Boris Johnson, who mounted a stoic defence of London’s status as a haven for foreign oligarchs and dismissed concerns about the city’s housing crisis. Outside the conference hall, protesters – including the Focus E15 Mothers – laid siege to the event, with organisers having to put it in lockdown at one point.

Prime offerings being touted to the world’s property developers included phase two of the “Collegelands” project towards the east of Glasgow city centre, with the promise of opportunities to build yet more rip-off student accommodation as part of a “mixed use quarter extending the Merchant City” eastwards. As for Clyde-zilla Gateway, their focus is now the riverside area at Dalmarnock/Shawfield, home of the new Police Scotland HQ and an area accurately described as “almost unrecognisable”. This is true given that they’ve turfed out local residents/inconveniently placed local services and put car parks and office blocks in their place. But there was much to celebrate, with the Commonwealth Games winning the “regeneration project of the year” at the MIPIM awards ceremony.

While the UK faces a housing crisis – which as we’ve discussed, the Scottish Government can and should take urgent steps to address – it says a lot about the priorities of our councils that they spent this week wooing private investors with promises of how much money there is to be made in Scotland. MIPIM is at the heart of the housing crisis: an elite event that embodies a culture where land, housing, construction and regeneration are not framed in terms of social need, but their monetary return for profiteering speculators. One workshop at this year’s conference was hastily renamed after detractors seized on its original title, which neatly summed up the entire essence of the event:

Investing in affordable housing — is it worth it?

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Glasgow Games Monitor are hosting a workshop on “the housing monster” on Saturday 1 November at the Kinning Park Complex, Glasgow. Details here.

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Further Reading:

GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL UP A GUMTREE AS THEY FLOG VICTORIA PARK ONLINE

IS THE EAST END OF GLASGOW THE NEW WEST END OF GLASGOW?

SAFE AS HOUSES? : HOW THE RICH STOLE OUR HOMES

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