Whose Economy? An introduction | Scotland | Poverty & Homelessness

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The Whose Economy? seminar series was held in Scotland in 2010 – 2011, with the purpose of providing a space for researchers, representative organisations, policy-makers and people with experience of poverty to come together and explore the causes of poverty and inequality in today’s Scotland. This paper introduces the seminars and sets out the areas covered by the papers produced by the seminar speakers. These examine, among other things, the roots of poverty in Scotland
    Oxfam Discussion Papers Whose Economy? An introduction  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper Professor Mike Danson and Dr Katherine Trebeck September 2011 www.oxfam.org.uk  Whose Economy? An introduction    A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 2 About the authors Katherine Trebeck  is a Research and Policy Advisor with Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme in Scotland. Email:  ktrebeck@oxfam.org.uk   Mike Danson  is Associate Dean of Research & Commercialisation Reader in Economics and Management at the Business School of the University of the West of Scotland Email: michael.danson@uws.ac.uk  Whose Economy Seminar Papers  are a follow up to the series of seminars held in Scotland between November 2010 and March 2011. They are written to contribute to public debate and to invite feedback on development and policy issues. These papers are ‘ work in progress’ documents, and do not necessarily constitute final publications or reflect Oxfam policy positions. The views and recommendations expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Oxfam. For more information, or to comment on this paper, email ktrebeck@oxfam.org.uk  Whose Economy? An introduction    A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 3 Whose Economy? Background and aims Over the autumn and winter of 2010-2011, the University of the West of Scotland and Oxfam organised the Whose Economy  seminar series, with an agenda set by the Oxfam discussion paper: Whose Economy? Winners and Losers in the Scottish Economy  by Katherine Trebeck. 1  The publication of this paper set out the context of poverty and inequality in Scotland today, and looked at the historical factors and structural changes that have contributed to the current situation. The seminar series brought together researchers, representative organisations, policy-makers and people with experience of poverty. It aimed to examine key developments that have influenced the livelihoods of communities in Scotland and, from the perspective of vulnerable communities, to explore the implications of structural changes in the Scottish economy. The series explored the questions: what kind of economy is being created in Scotland and, specifically, to whose benefit? It also looked forward to creating a new model for Scotland: one which shares the benefits of growth fairly; creates high quality, sustainable jobs for those who can work while protecting those who can’t ; and prioritises social goals such as cohesion, strong communities, and empowerment. Speakers at the four seminars –  which were held in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Inverness –  were invited to discuss the relevant actors and how the interaction of the pursuit of economic growth and other policy trends (such as welfare reform) has impacted on communities across Scotland. At each event, there was highly informed participation from the floor, as well exploring the specific themes in some depth, so that the arguments and ways forward could be refined for the series of seminar papers and other dissemination. As discussed at the opening seminars in Edinburgh and in Stirling, the papers by McKendrick, Walsh, and Collins and McCartney explore the essential dimensions of socio-economic divisions in Scotland, offering a forensic analysis of the depths of inequality and the causes of poverty and deprivation. Many Scots face a life characterised by high mortality, economic inactivity, mental and physical ill-health, poor educational attainment, and increasing exclusion, as addressed in the papers by Collins and McCartney, Walsh, and Welford, and presented at the seminars in Glasgow and Stirling in particular. Poverty is concentrated in geographical areas such as Glasgow and the West of Scotland; and women, people from minority ethnic communities, and new migrants are more likely to be poor than other groups. Poverty is often associated with worklessness –  often due to unemployment, disability, illness or caring responsibilities. Work, however, is not necessarily a route out of poverty, as many jobs do not pay enough to live on, as discussed in Glasgow (see papers by Warhurst and Sinfield). The roots of poverty in Scotland are both historical and structural. In recent decades, the economy has shifted from one based on manufacturing to a service-led , supposedly ‘knowledge economy’ (Scottish Executive, 2001), with retail and 1  http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/policy/right_heard/downloads/dp-whose-economy-winners-losers-scottish-economy-070111-en.pdf )   Whose Economy? An introduction    A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 4 call centres expanding as manufacturing declines (see the papers by Boyd and Warhurst in particular). Glasgow, for example, was once the second city of the British Empire. 2   Now it is Britain’s second biggest shopping destination  (see papers by Carlisle and Hanlon, Hamilton, and Welford). In this new economic landscape, people face increased risk in taking –  and attempting to keep –  a job; a  job which may offer them little security and require a high degree of flexibility on their part. Despite this, work is seen by government and policy-makers as the route out of poverty –  with the responsibility for becoming employable firmly resting on the individual, who must acquire the skills and behaviours that will make them attractive to employers (see papers by Sinfield and Warhurst). Oxfam’s analysis of poverty around the world and in the UK uses the ‘Sustainable Livelihoods Approach’. Individuals, families, communities and societies are considered to require five types of assets –  financial (income and capital), human (skills, talent, health), social (relationships and support networks), natural (environment), and physical (infrastructure, services, equipment, and transport) –  to prevent poverty and vulnerability over the long term. In vulnerable communities the most important (and sometimes the only) asset available to families and individuals is their family relationships and social networks (Orr et al , 2006). These social assets enable poor families and individuals to share resources, helping them to even out fluctuating fortunes and to cope in difficult circumstances. Naturally, one of the topics visited at each of the seminars, and as reported in several of the seminar papers, identified this as the real ‘Big Society’ in Scotland, where local residents and nei ghbours attempted to ameliorate the worst effects of poverty on their families and communities. Yet recent economic development in Scotland and the UK positions individuals as cheap, flexible labour, akin to just-in-time inventory, available when business needs them and expendable when it does not (see the paper by Boyd). This, paradoxically, both relies on the crucial support systems in poor communities and simultaneously threatens to destroy them. But in response to economic restructuring and persistent poverty, anti-poverty policy in Scotland (and the UK) has tended to prioritise only narrow economic growth policies, emphasising employment and physical regeneration, but not social goals such as community cohesion, strong relationships between people, a sense of empowerment, and sustainability (see papers by Paton and Hastings). Strong communities seem to be valued because they can contribute to economic growth, rather than the other way round. The lessons from the vulnerable rural communities in the Highlands and Islands are especially significant, as examined in the paper by Braunholtz-Speight and in presentations by Watt, Gubbins, Danson, and Trebeck. Such economic growth and regeneration strategies have not reduced poverty and inequality in Scotland, and anti-poverty policies have, in some cases, made things worse rather than better. Oxfam believes that it is  possible to overcome poverty, both in Scotland and the UK. As the sixth richest country in the world, we certainly have adequate 2 This refers to Glasgow’s standing in the Victorian era, when it was one of the world’s pre -eminent centres of engineering, shipbuilding and international trade.
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