‘I don’t see how this area can be the most deprived in Scotland’

‘I don’t see how this area can be the most deprived in Scotland’
Helen McArdle and Rebecca Gray, The Herald

In the shadow of Celtic Football Club’s Parkhead stadium, the people living on the estate in the east end of Glasgow are more likely to be a victim of crime, die younger and be unemployment than those from anywhere else in the country.

Not that a visitor would immediately notice. This part of Glasgow has undergone a noticeable improvement with neat rows of modern houses, good street lighting and none of the vandalism and graffiti you would expect to see. It is a picture repeated in a number of parts of Glasgow once blighted by years of decay, as the city shrugs off its image as the most deprived in Britain. Slowly but surely Glasgow is on the up, according to the latest official data.

David McDermott, chief executive of The Banbury Regeneration Centre in Barrowfield, says the community “has come a long way” since the days when it was regarded as one of the most violent neighbourhoods in Britain.

He said: “We see around 80 young people in this centre every day, learning new skills and being given new opportunities. That is not a sign of deprivation. The young people we work with are fully engaging and eager to learn – this label of ‘most deprived area’ does not do anything for them.”

In the 1950s the area went from being a normal working-class suburb, like most other areas of Glasgow, to becoming a place renowned for its gangsters and criminals.

Hundreds of new houses have been built by the West of Scotland Housing Association in Barrowfield and the opening of community centres, such as The Banbury Regeneration Centre have had a huge impact on the area.

Betty, who did not want her second name to be used, has lived in the Barrowfield area her entire life, and has watched it transform.

She said: “In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the trouble really began with gangs and violence. People’s windows being smashed in would be a regular occurrence and there was a lot of police activity.” She continued: “This kind of stuff went on until the 1980s, that was when things calmed down. Now the place has really changed. The youngsters have more respect for you and they have more to do with their time than cause trouble and commit crimes. Barrowfield is the same as everywhere else – you have your good people and your bad people – but I really don’t see how this area can be the most deprived in Scotland.”

Labour MSP, Frank McAveety – whose Glasgow Shettleston constituency includes the communities of Barrowfield and Parkhead – says that while there has been “substantial investment” in housing, the areas are still blighted by unemployment.

He believes residents must share the benefits of the wider east end regeneration stimulated by the Commonwealth Games in order to overcome “systemic disadvantages”.

“One of the big challenges is to ensure young people in particular benefit from the apprenticeships,” he said. “But I think there is a deeper issue about working with individuals in those communities who are trapped in a cycle of poverty about how they break out of it.”

The index gives the most precise picture of deprivation patterns available, concentrating data to areas smaller than postcode zones. It finds that compared to 2007, Glasgow has fewer datazones in the 15% most deprived bracket and one third fewer in the 5% most deprived category – the only local authority in Scotland to experience that degree of decrease.

As for who takes credit, it’s a party political tug-of-war. While Glasgow city council leader, Steven Purcell, cites “the huge programme of local regeneration” undertaken by the council and its community partners for the change, SNP MP for Glasgow East John Mason says “the regeneration of the east end, funded by the Scottish Government for the Commonwealth Games” has been key.

North Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, Dundee City and Fife all have at least seven more datazones falling into the 5% most deprived communities in Scotland. Both North and South Ayrshire also have increasing numbers of datazones in the 5%, 10%, 15% most deprived bracket, making them relatively worse off between 2004 and 2009.

Within Glasgow, the least deprived area was Partickhill and Hyndland, an upmarket area in the west end.

The picture of deprivation and prosperity that emerges from the statistics also seems to underline a continued east-west divide in Scotland, with the city of Edinburgh and the north-east region boasting seven of the 10 least deprived communities in the country, while Glasgow City and Renfrewshire are saddled with all 10 of the most deprived datazones.