Current regeneration policies ‘increasing rather than reducing inequality’
Independent regeneration network SURF, which represents 250 organisations across Scotland, found that half of £50 million earmarked for deprived areas actually spent on office developments in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In its report the group condemned the “discredited” approach behind regeneration funding in recent years, and the group is urging Scotland’s political parties to adopt its recommendations before May’s election.
SURF chief executive, Andy Milne, said: “Despite all the talk about tackling poverty, most regeneration investments still go into wealthier areas. Everyone wants a fairer Scotland, but the reality is that our current approach is increasing, rather than reducing, inequality.
“Some key decision-makers seem to cling to the idea that investing in wealthier places is the best way to help poor ones. SURF’s 2016 manifesto explains why that has not worked and sets out what we can do to make Scotland a fairer, wealthier and more successful place for everyone.”
SURF has produced nine practical policies it claims would direct any resources to where they could affect real change.
The manifesto’s central proposals call for sustained investment in 15 strategic places of differing scale and geography, coupled with a statutory duty for public bodies to consider the impact on economic disadvantage of every spending decision.
Its main recommendation was for 15 places, of differing scale and geography, to be identified and given sustained investment to produce real benefits.
And it called for a new approach to rural poverty.
It said while Highlands and Islands Enterprise has helped drive sustainable economic development, there was no equivalent attention paid to economically vulnerable towns outside the north.
The lack of demand for workers in some areas such as south-west Scotland was highlighted as a key factor in “entrenched unemployment” which the report said was underplayed in current policy considerations.
It said: “The main regeneration functions of Scotland’s other enterprise agency, Scottish Enterprise, are targeted at supporting successful businesses and large-scale infrastructure and renewable energy initiatives.
“This results in comparatively less focus on economically vulnerable small towns and rural areas in, for example, the regions of Perth and Kinross, South Ayrshire, and Dumfries and Galloway.”
Andy Milne added: “By signing up to our policy recommendations, the parties can demonstrate a real commitment to change for disadvantaged places, poverty and inequality.”