Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Poor Angus

"Ye poore and ye dispossessed in the county of Forfarshire, writes ye Lorde Lieutenant, are starving. One hearth in three is living on less than three groats a week. Ye womenfolk and ye bairns are nae mair than bones, says milord Lieutenant."

If you had come across that in a 15th century tome written by the good Monk Bladderwick of Restenneth Priory you might not be surprised.

But this is a description of now. Of the brilliant, rich, productive, cultured 21st Century.

The 21st Century is brilliant for some, and bloody awful for others.

A new report (featured in The National today) shows that in Angus (Forfarshire, as was) more than one in three jobs are paid less than the Living Wage. This is rural in-work poverty. Women are almost twice as likely as men to be paid below the Living Wage across the UK outside London, and 60% of young people age 18-24 are earning less than the Living Wage. People working in hotels, restaurants, shops and agriculture or fishing are all likely to be earning less. Put these factors together and you end up in one place, the county of Angus.

This is in the context that Scotland is doing better than the rest of the UK in reducing under-Living Wage jobs. In 2014, 19% of jobs in Scotland were below the Living Wage - compared with almost 26% in Yorkshire or the East Midlands. The Scottish Government has done well to promote the Living Wage.

But it is time to stop. Time to adjust our Scottish economy so that poor working people in Angus, East Renfrewshire and the rest of Scotland earn a decent wage. 

As always with poverty the fight is against a many-headed Hydra - education, legislation, tax and fiscal changes, benefits changes... It's a complex task requiring a clear political focus on poverty over a long period.  Westminster can't be bothered; Angus is a very, very long way away and anyway, their Tory votes are won in the South East (see map, above).

An independent Scotland could take that fight to the Hydra. It will require the brave hearts of all of Scotland.

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