Fastest rise in foodbank parcels to kids on record | FM claims no written notes from advisors | SNP MSP calls for care homes nationalisation
The essential start to your morning from Common Weal.
07/02/2020 | View in browser
'Act like a tourist', or build community wealth?

Live in Edinburgh? Your city needs you. For the good of Scotland's capital, you must "act like a tourist".

You see, the tourist industry doesn't have any tourists to sell their stuff to, so residents need to take their place. Out of the goodness of your hearts, the people of Edinburgh need to rush back to parts of the city they had been banished from through hyper-commercialisation, and spend, spend, spend like they too can't work out what's vastly over-priced. And if they do that, they just might sustain the wreckage of over-tourism in the city centre for long enough until tourists start boarding flights and come back again, at which time they can head back to the city's outskirts and be happy in the knowledge that they helped save Edinburgh.

No, really. This is what Donald Emslie of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, a lobbyist for tourism companies in the city, has argued.

"Edinburgh will open up for locals first, so we want to encourage them to be a tourist in their own city," Emslie said.

"We want to encourage locals to visit unexplored parts of Edinburgh, and that in turn will encourage businesses to reopen."

What Emslie means by "unexplored parts" is bits of the city that had basically become so commodified that no local would have any desire to spend time there. The city centre may well be a ghost town now, but before Covid-19 the few locals who had hung on to tenement flats rather than cash-in with an AirBNB claimed of feeling like they lived in a 'Disneyland set'; a place that wasn't really a place, it was a whirl of selfie-sticks and photo ops, as new people came and went every couple of days, totally drained of community life.

Over-tourism had not only led to social isolation, overcrowding, air and noise pollution, an exhausted city infrastructure paid for by locals, and increased monotony in the city's culture, it is also highly questionable how good it was for the economic health of Scotland's capital. While undoubtedly it generated GDP growth, and profits for aviation companies and rentiers of all kinds, the high commercial rents also forced high value added work like manufacturing out of the city, to make way for low-paid, insecure work in hospitality and retail, and the high residential rents led to sky-high housing costs. Dr Jim McCormick, head of the city's Edinburgh Poverty Commission, found that: "The modern face of poverty in Edinburgh would be you’re under 50, probably working and probably renting." If a city's economy is not working for its people, is it really a success?

While tourism was booming, poverty was also on the rise in Edinburgh too. By August last year, 21,000 children in Edinburgh were living in poverty. In some parts of the city one in three were in poverty. Now with the Covid-19 crisis, the poverty gap is widening still further. Those who benefited least from over-tourism suffer most from its collapse.

And it's not the tourism industry who are left picking up the pieces, it's communities themselves. Edinburgh Helping Hands, a coalition of community groups, have bandied together to deliver a People's Free Food Program for the past ten weeks, providing thousands of healthy meals and cleaning supplies to families in the city on a regular basis. They've even expanded to provision of online keep fit classes, bikes for free hire and mental health support.

One family in Pilton, North Edinburgh, who received the food packages, said: "Both me and my partner are temporarily out of employment, with two kids at home. The first week we survived thanks to the kindness of a neighbour. I really appreciate the food packs and the different foods we are receiving now. It has saved us".

This shouldn't happen in one of the wealthiest city's in the world, where one in five children go to private school, but it does because we have an economic model that isn't resilient to crisis and is dominated by multi-nationals which extract wealth out of the urban environment. Building and sustaining the wealth of communities themselves should be at the centre of Edinburgh and Scotland's economic recovery.

Common Weal's new paper, 'Resilience Economics: An Economic Model for Scotland's Recovery', looks in detail at how this can be done. Spoiler alert: it doesn't involve "acting like a tourist".
Ben Wray, Source Direct
Top Story

The Trussell Trust, which runs 83 per cent of Scottish food banks, say they have delivered a record increase in food parcels to children.

Deliveries were up 47 per cent in April compared to the same period in 2019, with a 62 per cent increase in parcels going to children.

The Trust is calling on the government to increase support to low-income families, including a £250 lump sum and an extension of cash payments to families with children eligible for free school meals.

The Trussell Trust's head in Scotland, Polly Jones, said government measures were "vital to ensure funding is available to stop children from falling into poverty".

"Cash grants are the quickest way to distribute money in an emergency and could be the difference between someone being able to afford to put food on the family table or not," she added.

The Scottish Government said it was working on a Scottish Child Payment and would be paying additional sums to people who receive Carers Allowance. They also called on the UK Government to reverse welfare cuts and make "fundamental alterations" to Universal Credit.

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Other news

  • Campaigners for Borders Rail have said that the extension of the Edinburgh to Tweedbank line to Carlisle was "more important than ever", despite a fall in people travelling since the Covid-19 crisis. The campaigners said if there was to be a "meaningful economic recovery" in Scotland infrastructure projects of this kind must go ahead. (BBC)
  • The Scottish Government has claimed that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon received no written briefings from her chief advisors when the Covid-19 crisis was mounting. The revelation comes after Labour MSP Neil Findlay submitted an FoI request for briefings between 24 January to 9 March, but was told that there are no written briefings to be released. Sturgeon said yesterday that she had received "lots of briefings and lots of advice" in other ways. (The Herald)
  • Almost one in three primary schools have gone without an inspection for a decade, new official figures show. The data, released in response to an FoI, shows that there are also 700 primary schools that have not been inspected since 2014. Education Scotland said it is increasing the number of local inspections it carries out. (The Scotsman)
  • Three factories in Scotland announced closures yesterday, increasing fears about rising unemployment. The hanger maker Mainetti in Jedburgh on the borders said it was transferring work to Wales, with 100 jobs under threat. LS Starrett, which makes tools and other components also in Jedburgh, said it was starting a redundancy consultation with about 100 manufacturing and support roles at risk. Fishers, a commercial laundry firm in Perth, said it was closing, with more than 80 employees said to be made redundant. (The Times)
  • An SNP MSP has called for nationalisation of care homes, after new statistics showed 70 per cent of private-sector care homes have seen Covid-19 infections, compared to 38 per cent of not-for-profit and local authority care homes. Angela Constance MSP, a former Education Secretary, said she wanted a National Care Service as "profiteering at the expense of care cannot be tolerated." (Daily Record)
  • Extension of the mortgage holiday scheme is likely only to delay hardship, Citizen Advice Scotland has warned. The Financial Conduct Authority has announced a three month extension to the payment holiday scheme, but interest is still accumulated on the mortgage during the holiday, and thus will mean increased payments at a later date. CAS said that banks needed to do more, calling for a cancellation of interest during holiday periods and a suspension on home repossessions. (Third Force News)
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