Borders faces ‘Third World’ problems

CHILD poverty is usually seen as a problem that relates mainly to deprived urban areas, so your front page revelation last week would no doubt come as a surprise to many readers. This is a disgrace and indeed a trend which contradicts claims recently made by Prime Minister David Cameron regarding his government’s success in tackling this problem.

Local politicians quoted in the article as calling for urgent action will hopefully become part of that action themselves.

For many years now the Borders region has been at the bottom of the national earnings scale. The latest information released in January this year, which appears to have been a well-kept secret, indicates that the value of average earnings for the whole of Scotland dropped by 9.5 per cent between April 2008 and November 2012. Locally, however, employees resident in the Scottish Borders saw the value of their average earnings drop by an incredible 20.3%.

An Audit Scotland report just published on Community Planning in the Scottish Borders points to a number of key challenges facing the Borders and identifies the pockets of deprivation in Galashiels and Hawick.

One such challenge is going to be created by the welfare reform agenda being introduced by the Tory government which will have a considerable impact on changes to the amount of benefit paid to individuals and how that benefit is paid.

The report states that 
this could potentially remove £10 million from the local economy.

These facts tell us that things are not good in the Borders economy and the future prospects are very grim indeed.

Hawick is even less well placed because it does not benefit greatly from enhanced earnings by commuters to the central belt.

All is not lost however, because if ever there was an opportunity for our local politicians to shine, it is now.

Our own MP is currently the Secretary of State for Scotland and an influential member of Mr Cameron’s Cabinet therefore is surely in the best possible position to exert influence where it matters.

If the local MSPs wish to make their mark in the Scottish Parliament this is their chance too. The evidence is certainly there for them to present an excellent case in any call for action.

This should also apply to our local councillors but although some work very hard and do a good job on local domestic issues, they don’t really appear to have a grasp of the big picture or be able to exert much influence where it matters.

The Audit Scotland report in fact comments on a hitherto lack of leadership by councillors.

In the circumstances therefore, while it is appreciated that nationally the economy is repositioning in world terms, this rapid descent in the Borders region, which is taking place much faster than in other parts of 
our own country, is a huge 
challenge that has to be urgently addressed – otherwise we will be Scotland’s Third World.

andrew farquhar