Monday, 19 May 2014

A Time to Listen

It is time for some of us just to shut up and listen.
When I was a wee boy my Mum told me that I had two ears and one mouth in order that I could listen twice as much as I should speak. I’ve remembered her advice but not always followed her wisdom.
A great deal of the current independence referendum has been characterised by politicians shouting over one another in a desire to get heard. The sadness is that are we in danger of hosting such a brutal debate that it will be very difficult to come together as a nation on the 19th September whatever the outcome.
Perhaps even more worrying, as the voices of some get louder and louder and the accusations between sides get more and more inflammatory, others are being completely drowned out. Most critically amongst those are many of Scotland’s poorest and most disadvantaged citizens.
I am not suggesting that people are being ignored. As the referendum points to one of the highest turnouts in our history, both the Yes’ and ‘Better Together’ campaigns are vying for everyone’s votes and making all sorts of promises. But that doesn’t mean that those who talk are actually listening. And we all need to listen a lot more.
It was for that reason that Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission recently wrote to all our MSPs and Scottish MPs inviting them to attend Turning Up the Volume on Poverty this June. This event is for those who want to listen, who want to learn, and who want to build a fairer and more equal Scotland.
The Poverty Truth Commission brings together two groups of people. We include people who occupy significant positions in Scottish society as civic, political, religious, medical, community and academic leaders. We also include refugees, benefit recipients, kinship carers, community activists and folks in low-paid work or unable to find paid employment.
We believe that we stand the best chance of changing things for the better by listening and learning from the real experts – the people who struggle against and overcome the grinding reality of poverty every day. ‘Nothing About Us Without Us is For Us.’
Over the last two years the Commission has been working together to consider some of the things that we know need to change. Our concerns include food poverty, welfare reform, in-work poverty, the additional cost of being poor and the ignominy of being labelled as ‘scroungers and skivers.’ However, we will not just be presenting the problems. We will also be making proposals about some of the changes we know need to happen.  

We want those who are passionate and outspoken on either side of the current independence debate to come and listen. We believe, just for a little while, that it is time to turn down the volume on politicians and turn up the volume on poverty. 

To register at this free event click here; call 0141 248 2911; or email #TurnItUp2014

Martin Johnstone

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