The two faces of Glasgow

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Glasgow est l’exemple type de la ville écossaise qui a su se reconvertir et prospérer. Après la désindustrialisation massive des années 1980 qui l’a fortement affectée, elle est aujourd’hui une ville touristique et est même devenue la capitale européenne de la culture en 1990. On peut qualifier cette reconversion de renaissance économique. Pourtant derrière cette jolie façade, la réalité de Glasgow est bien plus effrayante : les taux de mortalité et de pauvreté sont les plus importants du Royaume-Uni dans certains quartiers de la ville. En effet, si une partie de la population a pu profiter de la reconversion, la majorité reste à l’écart de cette reconversion, ce qui a eu pour conséquence d’aggraver les inégalités sociales. Aujourd’hui, alors que les pauvres de Glasgow cherchent du travail, l’élite se retrouve au Glasgow Art Club pour savourer de délicieux repas.

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Recent studies have shown that life expectancy is lower in Scotland, especially in Glasgow, than in other areas in the United Kingdom. Indeed, the death rate is higher in Glasgow than in Liverpool or Manchester, even if the poverty rate is the same in all these cities. In Glasgow 4,500 more early deaths of people under 65 have been registered than in the other British cities in the last five years. The life expectancy is about 73 for men and 79 for women, which represents 3 to 5 years under the national average. But there is also an enormous difference of about 28 years between the life expectancy of a child living in a rich neighborhood of Glasgow (in the west and the south of the city) and one living in a poor neighborhood (in the east). A big proportion of the mortality rate in poor neighborhoods like Castlemilk or Easterhouse, is due to the important number of health problems in the population. But violence comes before obesity and cigarettes to explain this high mortality rate. However, the deaths caused by alcohol, drugs or suicides are the most numerous: their number is 40% higher than the national average. Besides, there might be about 50 to 150 illegal and violent gangs composed of young people in those poor neighborhoods.

But according to these studies, this high death rate in the poor parts of the city could be explained by the policies of the Thatcher government during the 1980s. Indeed Chilk Collins, professor of political sciences at the West of Scotland’s University explains that one cause of poverty and inequality was the deindustrialization under Thatcher, but it had also created a feeling of a political desertion of the population by the government. And if those effects exist in Liverpool or Manchester too, they have deeper consequences in Scotland, chiefly in Glasgow.

 Indeed, for most of the Scots, the economic choices that Thatcher made were disastrous. Some Scottish people even regarded her policies as anti-Scottish. First of all, under Margaret Thatcher, there was a retreat of the State.  And a lot of Scottish people worked in public services. Moreover, the traditional industry was for Scotland and especially Glasgow the most important sector. A lot of people in Glasgow depended on it and several policies of regional aid helped firms set up in Scotland to develop the region. But Thatcher questioned these policies, and made the choice of “post-industrial” economic modernity.  The result was that several industrial sites closed down in Scotland like Goodyear’s site, for example. Besides, the Iron Lady displaced the poor population in the suburbs and privatized the most important part of social housing. And in the 1980s, the Scots started to be a bit worse off on average than the other Britons.

But today, Glasgow appears to be a redeveloped city despite its deindustrialization. And that could turn Glasgow into a dormitory city. Glasgow is now the most attractive city in Scotland and one of the most attractive in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, this success hides a sadder reality: a great part of its population didn’t take advantage of this redevelopment and is still suffering the consequences of the Thatcher area. Today, Glasgow seems to be the most relevant example of an unequal British city.  It is the seventh city in the United Kingdom for British millionaires, but it is also in Glasgow that the unemployment rate is the highest in the country. And now the government seems to neglect those social and economic issues. Indeed, because of the global economic crisis, Prime Minister David Cameron has implemented a series of austerity measures due to last until 2015. In particular, he decided to cut financial aids to the schools and universities in the poor areas of Glasgow. So we can think that improving social policies so as to reduce the inequalities within the British population is still not a priority for the Government this year.  And that is no good news for Glasgow’s inhabitants.

Zoélie DUPERIER & Larisse MARTIAS

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