Are more Scots ‘Just about managing’ thanks to the SNP’s progressive policies to resist Tory austerity? And, Robert the Bruce wasn’t a leper!

‘Four million more people are living below an adequate standard of living and are just about managing at best, according to an authoritative report on living standards in modern Britain.’ (JRF, 2017)

The much-respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation, released ‘Just about managing: Four million more people living on inadequate incomes in modern Britain’ on 15th Feb 2017.

It warns that: ‘millions of just managing families are on the tipping point of falling into poverty as prices rise in the shops, with forecasts showing the cost of living could be 10 per cent higher by 2020.’

There’s no breakdown of the statistics into those for English regions, N Ireland, Scotland and Wales so the MSM coverage could easily confuse Scottish readers and viewers. I strongly suspect that in the light of a number of SNP policies, the figures, though still disturbing I know, will be less bad for Scotland than for most other parts of the UK. I’ve requested a breakdown but until then, I thought it might be worth reminding ourselves of the last JRF report which did have such a breakdown, Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2016 published quite recently in December 2016 and one or two other relevant comparative sources.

So from the above December 2016 report, here are some extracts of interest:

‘In the three-year average to 2014/15, the South East had the highest weekly median income of £450. The North East had the lowest weekly median income of £357. Of the countries besides England, Scotland had the highest weekly median income of £413, followed by Northern Ireland’s £372 and Wales’ £370.’ (32)

So, taking into account free prescriptions, bus passes, compensation for bedroom tax and free HE, that might be the first indicator of what to expect about poverty rates:

‘London has the highest poverty rate of 27%, 6% above the UK average. The West Midlands and Wales have the next highest rate, at 23% each. Scotland and southern England outside London have the lowest poverty rates: 19% in the South West and 18% in Scotland, the East and the South East.’ (34)

I know 18% is still too high but it is worth reporting that Scotland is less afflicted by it than nearly every other part of the UK.

With particular regard to child poverty, I’ve had to dig around. This is from a 2013 JRF report, well into the period of SNP governance:

‘In the decade to 2010/11, the child poverty rate in Scotland fell from 31% to 21% after housing costs (AHC). From having a higher rate than England and Wales, Scotland now has a much lower rate. The rate for England and Wales is 28%.’ (JRF 2013)

By 2014, according to Poverty and Social Inclusion it had fallen a further 1% to 20%. Still a disgrace, I know.

I realise this is not wonderful news by any means but it does suggest the SNP government’s policies are helping to alleviate austerity.

Robert the Bruce did not have leprosy, Western University (Ontario) research shows

This hugely significant finding was published on February 16th 2017. I didn’t know that there was any suggestion he did have leprosy. Wouldn’t his arm have fallen off when he hit Henry de Bohun with his axe? His dad had smallpox, I think. According to the Canadian researchers:

‘Robert the Bruce, long believed to have suffered from leprosy, did not have the disease that in the 1300s carried a heavy stigma, the work concluded. The suggestion their national hero may have had the disfiguring, contagious disease has long been a burr in Scotland’s thistle. But in the first examination authorized by the Bruce family descendants, has determined King Robert I did not show the tell-tale suite of signs of the disease.’

It was a burr in Scotland’s thistle? A burr is a rough edge. Aren’t thistles all burrs and meant to be so? Needless to say the Daily Torygraph reported that he really did have leprosy. Was that the reason why Edward 1st wanted to make Scotland into a ‘colony?’


5 thoughts on “Are more Scots ‘Just about managing’ thanks to the SNP’s progressive policies to resist Tory austerity? And, Robert the Bruce wasn’t a leper!

  1. Brobb February 17, 2017 / 11:28 am

    Hi John, this is an unrelated question which I thought you might be able to answer. Last night on Question Time (and in education reports) it has been said that more able children aren’t doing as well as their counterparts in England. Do you know if there has been any discussion/research on the type of schooling more able children are accessing in England? I’m thinking there is probably a bigger take up of private (public?)school places like Eton etc whereas in Scotland more will attend their local schools which cover a wider range of needs. If this is the case is there an argument to put forward that the English children are higher achievers because of privilege and that this is widening the attainment gap?


  2. Contrary February 17, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    It would be interesting to see the breakdown of figures re poverty, I have been outraged at the uk government’s acceptance of people using food banks, that is, happy to have charity instead of welfare pick up the difference – when it is possibly their policy to not have a proper living wage enforced. That is, I believe that our taxes pay for companies’ profits. I don’t think people are aware of how much the Scottish government shelters us from austerity, and I’ve been impressed with its money management.

    I’ve read a wee bit about universal benefit, at first sceptically thinking it was a mad idea, but now I am all for it. The ‘robots are taking over the world!’ Scare aspect doesn’t quite wash with me though.

    There has been a facial reconstruction done of Robert the Bruce I believe, and they decided he was afflicted with some kind of disfiguring disease, I forget the details, kind of lost interest. I’ll try and find links to all these half-hearted claims I make in future!


  3. johnrobertson834 February 17, 2017 / 3:10 pm

    Thanks Contrary
    Still no reply on breakdown stats
    Universal benefits seem to be gathering support. Does seem kind of counter-intuitive.
    Admin and some professional work is being automated already though.
    Might trust an expert system over a fleshy lawyer.


    • Contrary February 19, 2017 / 9:53 pm

      Hi John, do you mean ‘expert system’ as in strict procedures and checks and balances, or as in clever algorithms on a computer? I still think fleshy people are a good idea for running things, though I am not too sure about specifically trusting fleshy lawyers,,, that would seem to be a bit rash! People still do a lot of things best, which is what I meant by not believing robots will take over the world – I like robots! But there isn’t anything out there yet that can replace the human brain for making judgements. (I think)

      Anyway, an update on the universal benefits – I have been socialising over the weekend, and happened to bring up this subject. Out of 4 people, 3 people knew about it. When the 4th person admitted having never heard of it, I launched into a rough description, and indeed person 4 was very sceptical about it ever working. I did not know what person 2 or 3 knew, or thought, about it before this (I am person 1, obviously), so was surprised when they both expressed the same sentiment as me: ‘it sounds mad, like it would never work, but once you read the theory behind it, you see what a fabulous idea it is’ . Then, of course, we all launched into what alternative ‘careers’ we could have. Except person 2 who is very happy with his work. Obviously my sample size is rather small, and I was drunk, so this might not be statistically significant.

      I think it would create a functional, beneficial society where community matters again, where people that have some kind of care need are not seen as a burden, but are part of the functioning of society, where we are not tied to the convenience for large corporations: to barter for pensions or for five days a week, where local economies are driven by the people that live in the local community, where dodgy deals between big business and politicians have less negative impact on people’s lives. It would take away the stigma of being on the dole and the feeling of being trapped in a vicious cycle – I believe many more people than now would be gainfully working if we had universal benefit. Maybe only in my imagination, right enough… A bit like imagining busy thriving ports, an active shipping industry importing and exporting,,, my imagination hasn’t quite resolved how energy efficient personal transport should look though, I don’t believe just using cars and making them electric is exactly the right way to go. The internal combustion engine is a fantastic invention and will always be useful, but, say, a kind of antigravity was invented, or a way for maglev to be cheaper & put into roads, you would not need as much power to move a vehicle then, and less battery charging for an electric vehicle, and better performance. Expensive infrastructure maybe – a bit like if all the power cables were superconducting, very little power loss (apparently the losses are quite huge) would mean far more efficient electrical conductivity. The materials science folks are discovering/creating higher and higher temperature superconducting materials (therefore cheaper/easier to use) all the time, so this might be feasible for power networks in the near future? Oops, miles off topic here! But hasn’t Scotland been praised for its green energy policies & achievements? Updating our infrastructure would be a major achievement!

      On the green energy topic, if Scotland is seen as the gold standard for something like this, it makes our country an attractive prospect for partnership, I reckon. Not only does it show us capable of following global policies, but shows us as enthusiastic, and capable of implementing new technologies and skills. Being ‘world leading’ in anything should give us a few friends, surely. (I use ‘us’ and ‘we’ loosely here). Though the fact we have friends out there isn’t in any doubt, I know.


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