HAILED as creating a "property-owning democracy", it was a cornerstone of Margaret Thatcher’s "social revolution", spurring half a million Scots families on to purchasing their cut-price council home.

But after nearly four decades, Right to Buy comes to an end in Scotland, a policy which changed the social fabric north of the Border by almost doubling the number of home owners.

Read more: Agenda: Why Right-to-Buy has had its day

Dwindling council housing stocks, growing waiting lists and the unforeseen creation of a new class, the buy-to-let landlord, has brought down the curtain of an often overlooked Thatcherite legacy.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the scrapping of the policy three years ago, claiming it was necessary to protect access to socially-rented properties and address waiting lists.

In the interim period there has been reports of a rush as those keen to get on the property ladder, or acquire a lucrative asset, rushed to meet the deadline.

In the year since it was introduced in 1980, a total of 494,580 council and housing association homes were sold under Right to Buy in Scotland.

In the UK as a whole about 1.5 million homes have been sold in this manner in the intervening 35 years, an indication of its popularity north of the Border.

Council tenants could be offered a 33 to 50 per cent discount, depending on how long they had lived in their home.

The successes are well-rehearsed: families taking control of their own destinies in an affordable way and left with assets to pass to their children or sell to them through their later years.

Read more: The door closes on Thatcher's legacy

But recent figures suggest 400,000 people are on waiting lists for social housing and with development remaining sluggish, cutting off this property supply is seen as one way to address that.

Ms Sturgeon has said her roll-back of the policy was not ideological but born of practical need. This, however, has done little to stop critics pointing out that her own parents bought their Ayrshire family home for £8,500 in 1984, claiming she is somehow a product of Mrs Thatcher’s successes.

Those who support its abolition claim that one net result of the policy has been the massive rise in the private rental market, often with much poor quality accommodation, higher rents and thus greater social security spend.

Buy-to-let has also been cited as a factor in the undermining of the social and indeed physical fabric of working class neighbourhoods. As many as one-quarter of properties sold via Right to Buy are now being let in the private rental sector.

Fraser Stewart runs the New Gorbals Housing Association in Glasgow.

He said: “The classic story is of children buying their mother’s flat worth about £90,000 for £25,000, she dies and they it rent for £650 per month to precisely the client group we would have let it to for £350, except we do repairs, provide a service, are accountable and properly regulated.

Read more: SNP set to ban the word 'benefits' from new social security agency

“When you factor in the discounts and additional housing benefit it boils down to handing about £95,000 to a random private landlord, as well as a free asset which could be worth £130,000 in a couple of decades.”

In South Lanarkshire, more than 39,000 homes have been sold through Right to Buy – equivalent to 60 per cent of its stock since 1980. But in some areas, 90 per cent of the council stock has been sold under the scheme.

A council spokesman said: “Waiting lists have risen and the council’s ability to meet housing need in the area has been significantly reduced.

"Whatever the arguments over the Right to Buy were, everyone involved in council housing including tenants representatives have agreed that it’s a policy that has had its day.

“South Lanarkshire Council, like others across Scotland, is looking forward to being able to increase supply and retain its housing stock for rent to meet the considerable levels of need for housing required by residents in South Lanarkshire.”

Dr Mary Taylor, chief executive officer of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, added: “This hasn’t come a moment too soon. Right to Buy has had its day and has no place in modern Scotland.”

But for the Tories, the decision to scrap the scheme is “nothing more than a political dogma and nothing to do with protecting the housing stock”.

Housing spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “Right to Buy has been the most effective single measure to enable a whole generation on modest incomes to take pride in owning their own property.

“It has also delivered the kind of mixed tenure communities that modern planners now seek to replicate.

“Nicola Surgeon would do well to remember that her own parents benefited from the scheme and she wouldn’t be where she is today without that hand-up.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “With thousands of people on waiting lists for council and housing association houses, it was only right for us to scrap this scheme as we could no longer afford to see the social sector lose out on badly needed homes.”

Right To Buy: The Landlords Revenge by Professor Douglas Robertson

The ‘Right to Buy’ is a complex issue, which has brought with it a host of unintended consequences. As initially envisaged by Margaret Thatcher it was designed to break-up the property empires of large municipal authorities, and challenge the political and financial power of the Labour Party.

Looking back at 1970s council housing, given its often deplorable build quality and poor day-to- day management it was easy to have some empathy with that ambition.

Council housing long provided the only significant income stream into councils, with much cash diverted to other council services especially general administration, legal services, cleansing and landscape maintenance via block charging arrangements.

It was also the means to stimulate growth of an emerging industry much lauded by the Conservative Party, the Financial Sector. By deeply discounting council house sales to tenants, mortgage lenders, both banks and building societies were able to safely grow their lending ‘down market’ and profit handsomely from that.

Those residing in good quality council houses and who were working found the mortgage payments to be less than the rent, so sales grew. New Towns and the SSHA joined in so that from a position of having 75 per cent of Scottish housing in some variant of public ownership, it is now just under 30 per cent, equally split between council landlords and housing associations.

The loss of the ‘blue chip’ properties from the councils housing revenue accounts, those built a long time back to a good standard with a low outstanding debt and limited on-going management and maintenance costs had long subsidised the newer, less successful often high rise and system build stock, thus ensured rents rose significantly and council housing polarised from mass housing venture to the housing of last resort.

The ‘Right-to- Buy’ properties formed over time a new element within the growing Scottish housing market, a new offering at the ‘cheaper end’, although a few became highly sought after.

This stock was lost to tenants, or was it? Now with the housing market repercussions of the 2008 property crash and the closing down of mortgage access to younger first-time buyers others have stepped in and bought up ex-‘Right to Buy’ properties via a new lender product, the ‘Buy to Let’ mortgage.

Private renting in Scotland has more than doubled in the last 20 years from just under 7 per cent to now just over 15 per cent of the entire Scottish housing stock, and a very significant element of that growth has been ex-council houses, originally bought under the ‘Right to Buy’.

Given the marked improvement in housing association and council housing quality, a policy pursued by both the Labour / Liberal and SNP administrations, via the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, we now have the peculiar situation that in any street of what was originally council housing there can be two quite similar houses, one still owned by the council and rented out, a now good quality home at an affordable rent.

Next door, the neighbouring property has not seen much improvement, except for the 1980s B & Q mock Georgian front door. That ex-‘Right to Buy’ property is also now rented out, but at twice the price of the neighbouring property.

The ‘Right to Buy’ has gone, but its consequences will play out within both the housing market and Scottish public policy for decades more. Council housing appeared in 1919 to provide decent housing at a fair rent for the skilled working class, to provide ‘Homes for Hero’s’ returning from war.

The then Government decreed that the private market, composed of small individual investor landlords had failed. We then spent almost a century tracking the failures of that private landlord system, with ironically the Conservatives building more council houses under Macmillan during the 1950s than Labour.

It would now appear that the landlords are getting their revenge. Housing has always been about finance, and finance has always been about politics, that much has never really changed. The ‘Right to Buy’ was just one of these battles, and by obsessing about the houses we conveniently ignored the reality of what was actually going on.

Douglas Robertson is Professor of Housing at Stirling University