Wednesday, 17 September 2014

On the street

On the street it all makes sense.

I spent three hours tonight walking the streets of north west Edinburgh with the canvassers of Yes Scotland.

We walked along a cross section of Scottish society. At first the houses were single houses with wee gardens. The gardens, beautifully kept, neatly edged, ornamented with tiny statues. Well pruned roses in clear-wedded beds. Then as we headed north the houses became multiple flats in three or four storey blocks, each with a 'close', a communal stairwell. The stairwells had hand-written notices reminding tenants to keep the stairs clean and to do their cleaning according to the rota.

My canvassing buddy explained that these were all council houses sold off to private landlords under Mrs Thatcher's Right to Buy scheme. Now the private landlords don't bother with maintenance, so the houses gradually decay.

Further north still and the closes became increasingly decrepit, strewn with rubbish, smelling bad and looking broken. Many of the people in these poorer homes were first generation immigrants. Others were people with what the professionals would call 'multiple social challenges.' People with problems in work (the fifty year old man from Tarragona, whose poor English meant that the only work he could get was as a free magazine distributor, on a daily contact.) Or with addictions (the young, havering couple, him bone skinny, her too big.) This is poverty, in prosperous Edinburgh, where the well heeled bosses of the big banks have tried to scare us into voting No by threatening job losses.

On the way to the canvass, in central Edinburgh, I passed three men sitting on pieces of cardboard, on the street. Surviving on the street in Edinburgh, and especially as winter comes in, must be hard. Each of the men looked rough, uncared for, unkempt.

This is wrong. A rich society should not have people living in poverty like this. These are our people.

It is for all these people of Scotland, our people, that we are voting Yes on Thursday.

On the streets, Yes makes sense.

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