Youth parliament chief hits out at 'attitude of failure'
THE chairman of Scotland's youth parliament has hit out at "expectations to fail" which plague deprived areas of Edinburgh.
Upon being elected to the role this month, Pilton student John Loughton said one of his biggest objectives was to turn around negative attitudes that exist, particularly in north Edinburgh.
Mr Loughton, who is taking a year out from his politics and sociology degree at Stirling University, said the problem of low expectations existed throughout areas such as Pilton, Drylaw, Granton and Muirhouse.
He said: "For me growing up [in Pilton] there was never anyone around telling me I could do things.
"Coming from where I'm from there's a pre-requisite for failing.
"There's no real prospects - but a lad from Pilton can get out there and be like anyone else. It's a huge problem, not just for north Edinburgh but the other areas of the city, and probably Scotland as a whole, about what your expectations are."
Mr Loughton said when he was at Craigroyston High School, the possibility of going to university was rarely mentioned.
And the 20-year-old, who decided to remain in Pilton despite studying in Stirling, said pupils mocked him for being "brainy" when he announced his intentions to go into politics.
He said: "In school, the word 'university' was never mentioned, which wouldn't be the case if you went to school in another area, such as Morningside.
"I do like to think it's maybe changing, but when I was at school I would be walking down the road and get abuse, things like, 'Who's that brainy guy?'
"I do want to prove people wrong though and show others it can be done. We need more ambition in this area. It wasn't really until fifth year that I was helped to push on.
"This is a massive issue and it's about class and all the different social problems, and outside perceptions of what areas like Pilton are like and what people there can achieve. I want to show other young people that anything is possible, but to do that we have to break down stereotypes and address real issues."
His views were echoed by Forth councillor Elizabeth Maginnis, herself a university graduate who was raised in the same area of Edinburgh.
"I think I was one of the first- ever people from Wardieburn to go to university," she said.
"I'm disappointed that's been John's experience, but not surprised. I think there is a widespread expectation in these communities that kids won't succeed and it's one of the great issues.
"Schools do their best, but I have often been struck by the lack of ambition. The world has no boundaries other than the ones you place on yourself, and children have to be told that. Most kids from working-class or low-income families don't know the range of opportunities around."
Despite his strong words, Mr Loughton was keen to point out that the area did have many positive aspects.
"I don't want to paint the place in a negative light because it does have its good side. There is a lot of community activism, and some amazing people who live here."
He said he didn't have any political leanings, and even if he did he wouldn't be able to declare them because the youth parliament is a non-party political set-up.
He said: "I can honestly say I'm not attached to anyone. If I ever get to a stage where I can stand forward, it would be as an independent. I know it sounds cheesy, but I'm in this to make a difference."
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