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By Jason Michael
It warms our hearts to see that after 310 years of cold indifference the unionists have noticed the poverty and deprivation of many Scottish people. It is so reassuring to know that if we will reject independence they will end poverty in Scotland forever.
Nicola Sturgeon’s constituency – or part of it – is a “slum.” We have to hand it to the unionists. They really have us on this. There is no denying it. According to one 2010 study published by the Scottish Community Development Centre the “deprivation statistics for Govanhill show that… it is certainly amongst the most deprived [areas] in Scotland.” In most national socio-economic categories it measures in the 15 per cent most deprived areas, with housing in the bottom 5 percentile. There can be no argument that, by modern standards, Govanhill is a slum.
Having volunteered in adult education and community development in a housing scheme with comparable levels of social deprivation for almost a decade, I have first-hand experience of the realities of poverty in the inner city. It is certainly not the case that people in these areas are just bad or lazy people. Poverty and deprivation create predictable by-products – addiction, violence and other criminality, antisocial behaviour, prostitution and other forms of exploitation. Suicide rates are higher, along with elevated incidences of mental health problems; anxiety, depression, and so on. No human being should live in this poverty or be abandoned in such an environment.
This is where Scotland’s unionists are right. It is a scandal that such areas exist and that people are forced to live in them. They have rightly picked up on the fact that Govanhill is in the Govan constituency of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Guilty as charged. This is indeed the hellish reality for hundreds of families in Ms Sturgeon’s constituency. It is worth noticing, however, that it is only since making this connection that Scotland’s Tories have given a rat’s ass about the misery of these people’s lives. Poverty has become the unlikely instrument of the unionists.
“Instrument” is the best word here because the opponents of the Scottish National Party have instrumentalised this issue. Since when has Labour or the Conservatives in Scotland cared about impoverished communities and the people trapped by them? Yet the moment they find a connection between the poverty that has been a reality of Scottish life since long before devolution and the SNP they are on a crusade. It has nothing to do with bettering people’s lives or improving their communities. Their concern is shallow, opportunistic, and entirely cynical.
We don’t need to explain to them that the conditions of people’s lives in Govanhill are at the mercy of Glasgow City Council and not their MSP. They already know that, but why should the truth get in the way of a good – read: utterly repulsive – political opportunity? Each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities is responsible for providing all of the people who live in them with education, social care, waste management, other cultural services, and planning. We all know this, and Glasgow City Council is no exception – except for the fact that, as far as Govanhill is concerned, it has always acted as though it is.
Scotland’s unionists and the London tabloid media won’t point this out of course, and for a number of reasons. Social deprivation in working class areas throughout the UK is a natural consequence of the Thatcherite and neo-Thatcherite model of economics and governance to which we are subjected. This cruelty has always suited the agenda of London’s ruling élite. But, more immediately, they won’t point out the Council because it is a Labour run Council.
Glasgow City Council – the branch of local government charged with development and providing social care to the people of Govanhill – is a Labour majority council, with 41 council seats to the SNP’s 30. Yet Glasgow’s Labour representatives have always been more interested in Orange parades than in improving the awful conditions of Govanhill.
One unionist social media troll from Dumfries, “@GeorginaSparrow” – a midwife who has voiced her concern over there being “so many foreign midwives and nurses” in Scotland – goes so far as to use this manufactured link between Nicola Sturgeon and the poverty of Govanhill as a reason to become a Tory. Her advice is to “vote for whoever can keep [the SNP] out.” This is nothing but FEAR – false evidence appearing as real, something the Tories are past masters at creating. Like so many others, she did not need Nicola Sturgeon to become a Tory. She was always a Tory, but – with enough self-awareness to realise how repugnant this politic is to natural justice – she has leapt on a quasi-ideological excuse for her objectionable political choice.
In the end what we have is nothing more than typical opportunistic Tory poverty porn, using real human suffering and misery as a weapon against the SNP and the idea of independence. It was during the history of the Union that the social chaos of the poorest parts of Scotland was born. Nothing was done to address any of this before devolution, and nothing is being done now for the people of Govanhill under the mismanagement of a Labour run council. Surely if this truly bothered the unionist consciences of those who have been in charge for so long Govanhill and other places like it would be like Belgravia by now?
All they can do is tell the people of Govanhill and the rest of Scotland that it is all Nicola Sturgeon’s fault. Misdirection and smoke and mirrors – this is all they’ve got. Well May the fourth is coming, and the people of Glasgow have the opportunity to try something that hasn’t been tried before; getting rid of Labour! So when it comes to the SNP and the fight against the conditions that make Govanhill what it is, I have this to say: Join the rebel alliance and may the fourth be with you.
Shocking living conditions in Glasgow’s Govanhill