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Rough sleeper bids to become Edinburgh councillor

May 10 2012
Irvine McMinn’s ‘Beggar’s Manifesto’ promises tax reforms and a relaxation of red tape for small businesses


A rough sleeper with experience of homelessness spanning four decades is making a bid to become Scotland’s first homeless councillor.

Irvine McMinn is standing in Leith as a candidate for the Liberal Party in the council elections this month, giving Edinburgh residents the chance to vote for his ‘Beggar’s Manifesto’ which promises tax reforms and a relaxation of the red tape affecting small businesses.

He believes that with his life experience, which includes sleeping rough on the streets of Edinburgh, and his party’s radical ideas, he can offer something different to voters.

Irvine has been without permanent accommodation since the age of 16 and now at 56, believes his election would offer a break from what he sees as “stale” local politics. He is hoping the different perspective he brings will help to engage more voters. “The biggest single problem in politics today is that well over 40 per cent of the voting population never take part in the political process,” he told The Pavement Scotland. “When I talk to ordinary people on the street, the common refrain is that politics is solely for the rich and people with vested interests.”

The hopeful candidate believes that the causes of homelessness are so diverse, it’s difficult to formulate magic bullet legislation. Rather than create preventative policies, Irvine suggests that local authorities would be better to invest further in street crisis workers who can offer advice and support during times of hardship. He sees the police, particularly the “bobby on the beat”, as having a crucial role in directing individuals to shelters and distributing cheap blankets and other necessities during extreme weather.

Although at times harrowing, his experience of being homeless has not been entirely negative, and the Leith candidate says he has often been touched by the generosity of the public and has gained a strong sense of camaraderie with fellow rough sleepers. His aim has not been to court a potential “homeless vote”, however, he proudly admits that he does attempt to convince as many rough sleepers as possible to register to vote, even if they don’t vote for his party.

Irvine, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, makes clear that it was his decision to sleep without permanent accommodation and that his choice came from uneasiness in social situations caused by his condition. He spent time travelling and living in France and on his return to Edinburgh, tried to set up a street stall, but was forced to abandon his business as licenses became prohibitively expensive. He has experience in the hotel trade, and studied Physics and Maths at University.

McMinn and his Liberal Party colleagues believe in scrapping benefits altogether and would see them replaced with a “progressive” form of taxation that would offer “tax rebates” to those below a threshold. With this in place, he is convinced that it would encourage many more wealth creators who could be tempted to dabble in entrepreneurialism.

Irvine said: “If elected, I would push to make it easier for people to create their own jobs. Even if I don’t get elected myself perhaps I can highlight the issues affecting people in my position.”

• Local elections took place throughout Scotland on 3 May and Irvine McMinn was standing for the Liberal Party in the Leith ward, Edinburgh. If you’re not registered on the electoral roll - a home is not necessary - contact your local authority for details, or go online to:

• Read about another rough sleeper’s bid for office in news-in-brief - Bruce Shawen’s campaign in Florida, USA.