YOUTH unemployment in rural areas risks being sidelined by politicians who focus on urban areas and during a meeting of the Scottish Government’s Finance Committee last week Lord Smith of Kelvin highlighted what he described as “astonishing poverty in rural regions.”
Concerned that areas like the Borders risk becoming depopulated, Lord Kelvin added: “Just because the sun is shining right now and there are green Borders hills around Peebles and Gala - it looks idyllic - but it’s actually very, very tough.
“Some of the jobs that fill the gap down there are one-man-band type things. There are very, very little businesses that can take on people.”
Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for South Scotland, called on the Scottish Government not to ignore rural Scotland following a report on youth unemployment.
He said: “Economic focus brings with it inward investment and job opportunities, and consequently long term security which is ultimately what our rural communities need.
“Lord Smith’s report importantly highlights the need to invest in our rural areas and he recognises the need for a political focus.
“The SNP need to do more to stimulate and preserve rural communities in the Borders. But unfortunately their record has been disappointing so far and leaving the Borders out of the new enterprise zones created earlier this year must not be a sign of things to come.”
There has been criticism locally of the Scottish Government’s announcement that £9 million was being made available for six local authority areas to tackle youth unemployment focused on urban areas - Glasgow £3,371,000; North Lanarkshire £1,825,000; South Lanarkshire £1,457,000; North Ayrshire £828,000; Renfrewshire £799,000; East Ayrshire £720,000.
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont felt that some of the money should have come into the Borders.
He said: “We have far too many young people in the Borders who are finding it nearly impossible to find work and it is vital that we do everything we can to help them.
“We cannot afford a lost generation in the Borders, especially when we face the threat of many of our young people moving away to find jobs in the cities.”
Encouraging businesses to move to this area is the key according to Lord Kelvin chairman of Scottish and Southern Energy,
“I think it’s a job for government to try to steer companies into those areas,” he added.
In the latest Bank of Scotland Rural Areas Quality of Life survey they compared Scotland’s rural areas and although it was Shetland that came out on top for having the best quality of life in any rural area in Scotland the Scottish Borders featured highly in a number of areas, such as the number of households with broadband access (70%), which could be attractive to new businesses in the area.
Life in East Lothian is pretty good according to the survey: with the lowest average rainfall, the most sunshine, the lowest carbon emissions and the lowest percentage of vacant properties.