The people of Glasgow’s East End are many things, but they are not pampered | Audrey Gillan
There is no echo of steel, no molten metal being fired, no forgings or armaments being hammered out in what was once the largest steelworks in Europe. Here on its site, the only clanking to be heard is the sound of zimmer frames hitting the tiles on a shopping centre floor.
With its furnaces drawing in a workforce from across the country, the Parkhead Forge was the largest employer in the city. Now all that remains is the nomenclature, giving title to a down-at-heel shopping centre, a place that can often seem like a petri dish of everything that ails the East End of Glasgow.
Look at some of the faces here and you will see the ravages of ill health, smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet, a lack of sunshine and a life lived without much hope. Here people aimlessly wander, hoping to fill empty days with a wee blether, a free heat and a cheap cup of tea.
It is an oft-remarked fact that the average life expectancy at birth for men round these parts is 68.1 years, five years lower than the Scottish average. And it would be a rare thing indeed for the East End man to bid his farewell to this mortal coil on a sedan chair.
So to hear Sir Tom Hunter describing this life as “pampered” would no doubt leave the poor old soul burling in his grave – and shouting that at least his early death meant one less demand on the public purse.
Hunter, Scotland’s first self-made billionaire – whose riches were made selling training shoes to the nation – has declared that his fellow Scots are “pampered, dependent people who expect what others strive and graft hard for”.
This was closely followed by the Daily Mail’s description of the East End of Glasgow as the “benefits capital” of the UK, with almost nine out of 10 people “on welfare”. It states: “Astonishing figures from the Department of Work and Pensions reveal that 85% of working age adults in Bridgeton, in the city’s impoverished east end, are claiming some kind of welfare payment.”
But a closer analysis of the DWP statistics for Bridgeton (not actually in the Glasgow East constituency) shows that while high at 44.1% compared with the national average of 14.8%, the total number of claimants was 1,480, and that number included those on disability and incapacity benefit and bereavement and carers allowance. People on employment and support allowance are lumped in there too.
When I think of the East End, other statistics, published by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health in 2008, spring to mind.
Approximately 1,960 patients are admitted to hospital each year for