Independence as last hope among Glasgow’s dispossessed

Independence as last hope among Glasgow’s dispossessed

GLASGOW - Devastated by the decades of industrial decline, many living in the run-down Glasgow district of Drumchapel see Scottish independence as a last chance to revive its fortunes, but even here the "No" camp has supporters.

"For most people in Drumchapel it's a very, very hard life," said "Yes" voter Leah Hazard, a mid-wife with the National Health Service (NHS).

"I don't really see how this is going to change if things stay like they are. There is a general culture of hopelessness." "The Drum", as it is know to locals, is one of the most deprived areas in the United Kingdom, suffering from rampant unemployment, poverty, crime, substance abuse and a life-expectancy of 68.9 for men, "lower than Baghdad", according to British media reports.

"This is meant to be the main shopping centre, look how run down it is, deeply degenerated," sighed Malcolm Balfour, a local Scottish National Party (SNP) councillor.

The unemployment rate in Glasgow is around 10 per cent. In places like Drumchapel, it is more than double.

And for those who do work many are in casual labour or tied to "zero-hours contracts", which offer no guaranteed salary.

"Unemployment is 20 something per cent, because that includes people who can't work because of health conditions or disabilities," said Kenny Macdonald, manager of the Drumchapel Foodbank, a dispensary located at the top of a small hill.

On the door of the office, a poster warns of an "urgent need" for milk, coffee, canned spaghetti and baby diapers.

"The reaction of the community is amazing, there is a tremendous amount of goodwill," said Macdonald, although his operation has lacked vital supplies for several weeks.

With schools and their free canteens closed over July and August, summer can be a particularly hungry time for some neighbourhood children.

"It has been an issue for many years in certain areas of Glasgow during holiday times," the food bank manager said.

Poor are getting poorer

Health worker Hazard also blamed budget cuts for worsening the situation of her patients.

"I've seen how things have got much worse, we are so understaffed and people keep having babies," she said.

"It's getting dangerous for mothers and babies... with the budget we are given and I can see the pressure we have because of the budget restrictions from Westminster." She is pinning her hopes for a brighter future on a victory for the "Yes" camp in Thursday's independence referendum, a sentiment that resonates across Drumchapel.

"The poor are just getting poorer and the rich are getting richer," said irate local Linda Weather.

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