Rise of underclass

Is THERE any way to arrest the growth of the “underclass” in Scotland? I note Gerry Hassan’s sympathy for Charles Murray’s suggestion that there should be more social interaction in the United States between the “superzips in their privileged bubbles” and the urban, often feckless, poor (Perspective, 10 March). Certainly, it is trying to address a problem that differs on either side of the Atlantic only in degree. The growth of relatively affluent suburban estates in one area co-exists with urban squalor and low aspiration in others. Any offer to eliminate child poverty in another 20 years is likely to make little impression. This is a problem that needs to be tackled not just with rhetoric, but with radical action.

The route out of modern poverty is not just through well-paid satisfying work; it is just as much a question of aspiration. The conventional approach to this is to say that aspiration and confidence building is something that should start in school. But it is relatively easy for a teacher in an area surrounded by prosperity, job prospects and a decent environment to inspire confidence. It is a much more difficult thing to do in an area where the evidence of economic decline is apparent to all.

A revival of a dynamic regional policy is needed to create those jobs that people will feel it’s worth striving for. An absence of work and access to high-quality services helps create that welfare dependency, that air of despondency and hopelessness, which allow an underclass to grow. Its growth might spell despair for the future of Scotland, independent or otherwise.

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Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes, Fife