Thursday, 29 March 2012

Rural poverty and joblessness warning

YOUTH unemployment across Scotland, not least outside major urban conurbations, is a serious and often overlooked problem, the nation's politicians have been warned.

Lord Smith of Kelvin, who has led an investigation into the wider issue, has told Holyrood's finance committee that there is "astonishing poverty" in rural regions. He said that jobs were needed and that de-population would result if there was not a change of direction.

Lord Smith declared: "Just because the sun is shining right now and there are green hills around Peebles and Gala - it looks idyllic - but it's actually very, very tough. Some of the jobs that fill the gap down there are one-man-band type things. There are very, very [few] businesses that can take on people."

He warned: "We need to look further afield than that, unless we want these places to become totally depopulated. We don't want to do that... [P]eople have families and connections and so on... I think it's a job for government to try to steer companies into those areas. Their brains are just as good as they are in the inner city."

Monday, 19 March 2012

Power back to the people?

A NEW report from the Scottish Affairs committee in the  House of Commons calls for the powers of the Crown Estate Commissioners in Scotland to be both devolved to Scotland and then decentralised to local communities.

Alison Johnstone MSP, who is a member of the Scottish Parliament's Scotland Bill committee, comments: "This report adds serious weight to the case for local democracy and for ending the detached way in which the Crown Estate is run in Scotland. The UK Government must now recognise the case for change. The committee's insistence on a double-devolution of powers, with control ending up in the hands of local communities, is a principle that I hope will get far more prominence in the debate on Scotland's future."

Full details of the report can be found here. It has significance for the allocation of resources, for community access and ultimately for the distribution of wealth and power - which lies at the core of addressing rural and urban poverty.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

GPs in at the deep end

POVERTY Truth Commission staff and supporters have had a meeting with a group of General Practitioners who are trying to find better ways of engaging with the community, and especially those living at the sharp end.

The doctors want to change the way they work with patients and communities in areas of concentrated deprivation in Scotland.  What is currently happening does not meet their needs, the GPs believe.

This is the first time PCT has met with this particular group, and we had the opportunity to tell them more about how the Commission worked and how it might assist with the development of alternative models of practice.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Library cuts may hit most vulnerable

CONCERNS that cuts in Edinburgh's world-renowned library services will hit the most vulnerable, and worsen problems of unemployment, lack of literacy, poverty and the exclusion have been expressed at a public meeting in Leith attended by 70 local people.

Edinburgh East Save Our Services and Greater Leith Against the Cuts had called the meeting on 5 March 2012 to discuss the planned changes to library services throughout the city, which are part of a wider programme of funding cuts.

 Edinburgh Council has carried out a consultation recently, and among the changes it proposes are an expansion of services in some libraries, and new facilities at Dumbrae. But an overall reduction of £250,000 is planned - reduced from £550,000 after a vigorous local anti-cuts campaign.

Unison says that the cuts will hit rural and more vulnerable communities, that there will be reductions of 4-9 hours a week across an number of libraries, cuts in Sunday opening hours, and the termination of temporary staff contracts contracts. 

Campaigners - who include people on low and fixed incomes, older people, families with small children and carers - say that libraries are not just about books: they are hubs for a range of local services and play an important wider role in combatting literacy problems, promoting education and all-age learning, safeguarding jobs and providing a meeting point for the otherwise housebound and isolated. 

Councillors were left with no doubt that users, workers, authors and communities will be struggling hard to maintain their libraries, book clubs for children and related services. They are being asked to scrap the cuts, and if not to defer the decision until after the elections on 3 May 2012.