Scotland and Poverty (Re: marxism-digest V1 #3143)
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Fri Jan 26 11:56:45 MST 2001
David Welch wrote:
> On Thu, 25 Jan 2001, Macdonald Stainsby wrote:
> > You might want to check levels of unemployment, average income, etc.
> > It isn't the worst situation by any means. But it isn't a contest for
> > levels of oppresion, either.
> >Meaning what exactly? Capitalism develops across Britain as unevenly as it
> >does anywhere else, there are regions of England that have lower levels of
> >employment, income than regions in Scotland and vice versa. There are
> >parts of London right next to the city of London with as extreme poverty
> >as anywhere in Scotland. The SRSM get around this problem by arguing that
> >there are no 'Scottish' ruling classes at all, anyone who not working in
> >Scotland must be English.
If SRSM argues that there is no Scottish ruling class, I disagree. In every
colonized/ semi-colonized nation, there is a ruling class acting on behalf of
their own interests and the interest of the colonizers. This being the case,
here is an article on the Scottish poverty figures in comparison to UK from
the World Socialist Web Site. *Mind* you that the report mentioned in the
article is produced by the Scottish mainstream (Bank of Scotland, social
democratic trade unions, Scottish Council Federation, etc..).However, it
gives a precise sense of what the Scottish ruling classes think about Scotland
& how to alleviate poverty.
World Socialist Web Site
***Growing levels of poverty in Scotland
By Steve James
4 March 1998
A new report entitled "Three Nations" highlights the rapid growth of poverty
and inequality in Scotland. The report was produced by the Scottish Council
Federation, a think-tank incorporating major corporations such as British
Telecom, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish Airports, together with
representatives of the trade unions.
The three "nations" cited in the report are "the Excluded," the "Insecure,"
and the "Settled." The first consists of unemployed and part-time workers,
disabled people, families and single parents on benefit living in large,
disintegrating housing schemes.
"Insecure" Scotland consists of those in poorly-paid jobs with little
provision for old-age, whose hours of work are too long for any leisure time.
The report defines this group as being "one pay cheque away from poverty."
"Settled" Scotland is made up of those with well-paid jobs, who have higher
quality housing, secure incomes and better health.
Poverty in Scotland is placed within the context of an overall increase
throughout the United Kingdom. The report notes that the proportion of
households in Britain with less than half the average income in 1993-4 was 25
percent, compared with 10 percent in the early 1980s. Almost 10 million
households in the UK depended on means-tested benefits in 1993-4, double the
number of such families 20 years before.
Social disadvantage is particularly acute in Scotland, however, with around 12
percent of Scots living in the poorest tenth of UK households. The report
lists the following indices:
* One third of children in Scotland grow up in poverty.
* One third of pensioners live on the basic state pension of around $100 a
* 10 percent of workers take home less than 55 percent of Britain's average
wage, the highest number ever recorded. At this level of earnings, only
childless couples and single adults are better off working than living on
* Less than half of local government housing tenants have jobs, compared to
70 percent when unemployment was previously at the present level.
* Over 50,000 Scots have been registered unemployed for over a year and
20,000 for more than three years.
* Some 564,000 households live on welfare payments.
* Scotland's diet is among the worst in Europe. The report acknowledges that
"food poverty is largely a reflection of the limited choice excluded families
have over where they can shop, what they can pay and what is available..."
* The gap in life expectancy between the working class Drumchapel area of
Glasgow and the neighbouring middle class neighbourhood of Bearsden is eight
* Children in Glasgows Easterhouse housing estate are five time more likely
to die before their first birthday than the UK average.
* The closure of safe leisure facilities and parks means that children from
the poorest areas are four times more likely to be killed in road accidents
than their better-off counterparts.
The overall conclusion drawn is that present levels of inequality will
increase and that measures are necessary to defend "social cohesion." As far
as the authors of the report are concerned, however, this does not mean
implementing significant measures to alleviate poverty.
"Three Nations" is offered as an advice paper to the Labour government's
Social Exclusion Units, which are attached to the Scottish Office and
Whitehall. It accepts the Blair government's premise that "modernising the
welfare state and modernising the constitution must go hand in hand." This
means supporting Labour's so-called New Deal, which replaces welfare support
with the type of workfare schemes
pioneered in America.
The authors state that their report "does not explore tax and benefit policy
and the role of redistribution in tackling poverty and exclusion." Instead it
asserts that "the quickest route to social exclusion is to become wholly
dependent on the instruments of the state at as early a stage in life as
possible." The report adds, "A more inclusive Scotland will not be one without
risk, uncertainty, unemployment, low pay or inequality."
"Three Nations" was issued following the success of last September's Labour
Party-inspired referendum on Scottish devolution and prior to the setting up
of the promised Scottish parliament. This was promoted by the Scottish Labour
Party, the trade unions, the Scottish National Party and Scottish Militant
Labour as a vehicle through which working people could secure social reforms
and create greater social equality. These same forces have, over the past two
decades, blamed every social
attack, from mass redundancies to the implementation of the Poll Tax, on
"English rule from Westminster."
The Blair government's real aim in setting up devolution for Scotland, Wales
and parts of England is to promote national and regional competition for
international investment. This entails sharp reductions in wages and social
Even after 18 years of a Tory government, 80 percent of central government
spending goes for welfare and service provisions, compared to just over 40
percent in the USA. During the devolution referendum campaign, Labour's Social
Security minister Frank Field called for regional autonomy in setting welfare
budgets in order to slash public spending. Labour councils in Scotland are
already making massive cuts and plan more.
Scotlands largest city, Glasgow, is making £163 million (about $US275
million) worth of cuts in services, involving 1,000 job losses, an £8 million
cut in social work spending and a £5.5 million cut in education, involving
the closure of 7 secondary schools, 2 nursery schools and 2 outdoor centres.
At the same time the Council Tax levied on all adults (which replaced the Poll
Tax) is to be increased by 10 percent.
"Three Nations" offers suggestions on how mandatory state benefits can be
further reduced and other cuts imposed without creating a social explosion.
The report states: "
there have been no major riots in low-income
neighbourhoods of the kind witnessed in the early 1980s and 1990s in England.
The most excluded people in Scotland may not be about to riot to bring
attention and resources to their communities--but a truly preventative
approach to public policy will not wait to find out if this assumption is a
The report calls for the poor inner city areas and housing estates to be
targeted as a reservoir of cheap labour for the government's workfare schemes.
It argues that the government must embrace the semi-official, underground
economy, with people working "cash-in-hand" for "relatively small amounts of
money" in areas of high unemployment.
Maintenance of deprived areas should be carried out by "cashless" voluntary
labour. The authors of the report declare that Local Exchange Trading Systems
(LETS) should be encouraged to "..provide opportunities for people who may be
cash poor but time rich."
LETS have been established throughout Britain. They involve a return to a
primitive barter system of trade in goods and services paid for in tokens and
chits. LETS have been supported by Labour authorities as an alternative to
service provision by the state, and a substitute for secure, decent-paying
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Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222
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