Life expectancy gap ‘unacceptable’ - COSLA chief

THE 25-year gap in life expectancy between Scotland’s richest and poorest neighbourhoods has been branded “unacceptable for a modern western democracy”, by the country’s council chief.

COSLA chief David O'Neill. Picture: Submitted
COSLA chief David O'Neill. Picture: Submitted

But the independence debate is not addressing things that matter to ordinary Scots with it’s focus on “submarines, legal advice and currency”, according to COSLA president David O’Neill.

The Labour councillor is heading up a Commission into the role of local democracy in Scotland which is scheduled to report in three months.

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He told MSPs on Holyrood’s local Government committee today that since the Second World War inequality has grown in Scotland, as a result of “top down” approach to Government.

“The gap between the haves and have-nots has increased,” he said.

He compared the likely fates of a child brought up in a deprived area today, with that of a child born in a well-off area.

“The kid in the latter community can expect to live well into their eighties, but the kid born into the community with high levels of deprivation, that kid will be lucky - extremely lucky - to see 60.

“That’s a gap in life expectancy of 25-plus years. That’s not acceptable in a modern, developed western democracy.”

This issue will be at the heart of the Commission’s work into improving the lot of ordinary Scots. The referendum next year makes it a “crucial time” for democracy, but Mr O’Neill said the debate must be more focussed on “improving peoples’ lives.”

“It’s not so much about what the constitutional outcome is, but what that constitutional outcome does for our communities - whether it enables people to improve their quality of life,” he added.

“If you speak to local people their story is not about the workings of Holyrood or Westminster, it’s about the local services they need.

“It’s about libraries not about legal advice; it’s about schools not about submarines; it’s about care not about currency.

“These are the things that matter to people.”