18/12/2012 Newsnight Scotland


18/12/2012

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January and the Met place say they are -- their investigations

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continue. Tonight on Newsnight Scotland:

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Is there a political consensus building against universal

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benefits? This is Ferguslie Park in Paisley,

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officially the most deprived area in Scotland. How does paying

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benefits to middle class families help the families who live here?

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And the heart of darkness. What is it about Scots, especially middle-

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aged Scottish men, that drives so many to kill themselves?

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Good evening. First it was Joanne Lamont then it

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was Nick Clegg, then it was Joanne Lamont again. From the left, the

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idea that people should receive some benefits, regardless of their

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income is beginning to be questioned. Benefits like free bus

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passes for the over 60s, free prescriptions and in Scotland, free

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tuition fees. One such benefit, child benefit, has already ceased

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to be universal. From next month it will be means-tested. So, in these

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times of austerity, what should and shouldn't be universally provided

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This is a story about making hard choices in difficult economic times.

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Choose to provide people with one benefit and then you are choosing

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not to fund something else. And elected Governments in Edinburgh

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and London have made their own choices and both have chosen to

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provide benefits to people regardless of how well off they are.

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In Scotland, the big particular particular ticket benefits are free

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tuition fees and free prescriptions. This is Ferguslie Park. Should

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benefits be means-tested so people in areas like this might get a

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greater concentration of resources or should they be given to everyone

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regardless of whether they need them or not?

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Drive a few miles away and you are in one of the most affluent areas

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in Glasgow. A world apart in terms of income, but some of the

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advantages are the same. Residents here get free

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prescriptions, free bus travel and winter fuel allowances, but are

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these benefits they don't need? What would happen if they were

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taken away? APPLAUSE

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And that possibility raised its head yesterday. Nick Clegg told a

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press conference basically there is no such thing as a free lunch.

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Support fairness by making clear that money should not be paid to

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those who don't need it. Looking again at universal benefits paid to

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the wealthiest pensioners for example.

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Joanne Lamont put her head above the parapet a few months ago when

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they kick started the debate on universal universal universali ity?

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We need to be honest about the the sustainability of free higher

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education and the impact it will have on academic standards? This

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man says take universal benefit away at your peril.

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Only looking at one side of the argument, universal benefits is

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flawed. If you take the middle classes out of the Welfare State,

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they are not going to support it. You won't get support for the

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system that is likely to address inequalities. We know this from

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looking at Sweden where the middle classes get something back for the

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support of the Welfare State. I don't care if Rod Stewart gets a

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free bus pass or millionaire's kids free university education as long

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as they are paying for it in their tax.

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They argue we are going a different way from the rest of the UK. .P-

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Everyone says Scotland is not that different from the rest of the UK.

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But they vote to the left. They like the idea of being more sharing

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and more collective. Actually, polling in Scotland

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suggests support for universal benefits like tuition fees and free

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bus travel is well, not universal. But there are political no go areas

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for any Government. The public would not support removing benefits

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like free access to GPs and free hospital meals. But there is a

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debate about what should be universally provided and it looks

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like it will be one of the big political issues of the next few

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I'm joined by Robin McAlpine of the Jimmy Reid Foundation and in our

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London studio is Graeme Cooke of the Institute of Public Policy

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Finance. Is this a trend that politicians that we would normally

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consider to be left of centre are questioning the universality of

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benefits? What Joanne Lamont was doing today was pointing out that

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the essence of politics is priorities especially when there is

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less money around. There is a trade-off to be struck between

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access to higher education and the quality and standards of the

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education pro provided and the costs and who pays for it. There is

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choices to be made about where universalism is most and less

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important and it is grown-up politics to have an honest debate

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about that. But you wouldn't see it that way,

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would you? It is fine that we have a debate about it, but I have

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problems with the suggestion that we look at this only true the prism

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of a set Budget of afford affordability and we don't think

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about what works, what makes a difference, what really improves

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society? The answer is we have not come up with any system which is as

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good at eradicating poverty and promoting equality across society

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as a universal universal Welfare State.

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Let's get back to the philosophy in a moment. Let's take one example

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and it is one of the things that has been raised by Nick Clegg and

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from his own point of view, Iain Duncan Smith which is winner fuel

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payments which are paid -- winter fuel payments which are made Peaud

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to middle -- paid to middle-class people who don't need them. Can you

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see any justification for making that a universal benefit? There is

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no point in having this this debate in the abstract. Governments raise

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taxation and they spend and they have to balance those two out over

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a cycle and it seems to me hard to justify taking away tax credits

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from low income working families when you are protecting universal

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winner fuel allowance and free TV TV licences for well off pensioners.

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In principle, it would be great if we could provide these things to

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everyone with no limits, but there are limits and and politics is

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about making priorities and choices and what is most important? And

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where do you want to defend universalism on education and

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health and schools? There are many pensioners that need it, but it is

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a particularly acute example, isn't it? I mean I think the bedrock of

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the Welfare State is the contributingtry, the basic State

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pension that should go to to to everyone that contributed to the

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system either through working or caring and the winter fuel

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allowance and free TV licences which are going to well off

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pensioners and significant sums of money could be saved if those

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benefits only went to the people on low incomes. And politics is about

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making those priorities. Let's stick to winter fuel payments.

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You have got lots of general arguments in your your leaflet. How

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would you justify that payment being universal?

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Supporting universalism doesn't mean supporting every possible

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expenditure that you could make from the Welfare State, but I want

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to shift the argument away from that because the fairness isn't in

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how you spend it, the the fairness is how you raise it. If we allow

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this debate to become a question of which piece of expenditure is or

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isn't more beneficial to one one group or another group, we take our

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eyes off the picture. I see the point. But you have argued in

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pieces that you have written that an unspecified they are involved in

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an attack on the Welfare State. When I ask you about a specific

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thing that people like Iain Duncan Smith and Nick Clegg are

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questioning, you back off and say, "I don't like attacks on universal

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ben benefits, but that one is fine.". If we want to create the

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best possible means of running our country, we don't start with winter

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fuel allowances. The inefficiency of managing means-tested benefits

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such as winter fuel has two massive down sides. It is incredibly

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inefficient. Fraud, error and administrative costs are high. More

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important if we keep winter fuel payments only for the poor, we do

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not have social buy in. Well, I wonder if you would agree

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with that because many of the universal benefits which people say,

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"No, you can't take them a I them away." Are recent. I don't think

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winter fuel payments date back that long? Free education in Scotland,

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under the previous Government there was a form of graduate tax. Free

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prescription have been in for a year or two. A lot of these things

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are new things, aren't they? At one level Robin is right because you

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need to have systems where people pay in and have a a progressive tax

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system. It is in more institutions like the NHS, free education that

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people really do bind people together. It is in those areas I

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would defend universalism. I think it is important to extend

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universalism into areas like childcare, but given there are

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limited resources, that might mean you have to scale back universalism

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in areas like cash payments. What you are saying might might be

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an argument for universalism which is bringing people together for

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example children from different backgrounds which could help the

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children from less well off backgrounds perhaps as the one

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could help ones from better off backgrounds and that's something

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I think there are institutions and places in society when people from

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different backgrounds come together and benefit from each other. But I

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am not convinced that the cash transaction that goes from the

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Government to someone's bank account is vital for building

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social Solidarity around the welfare state. I'd think we need to

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get past these general arguments. We need to have a realistic

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conversation about what we want to prioritise and where universalism

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is more or less important. Adam, you would think that idea of things

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that bring people together is not about criteria. It is an excellent

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criteria. One of the things I think is interesting about this debate is

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that I have not heard anyone say we're going to have to lives with

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rising rates of crime because we cannot afford the police. What I am

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uncomfortable with and will be apt to be aware of is creating one box

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into which we put things that a right-wing ideologues would like to

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see attacked and calls on affordable and another boxer would

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put essentials. If we are going to have this debate, we have to step

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right back and look at overall budget priorities. Thank you very

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much. How many Scottish people do you

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think will themselves? 200, 300? The bad news is that according to

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statistics, 1533 people to their lives in Scotland in 2009. -- June

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2009 and 2010. What is it about Scot's that so many enter their own

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lives? Image of the suicide rates per

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hundred 1000 of the population. In 2002, seven -- Scotland at 17.6 but

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by 2010 it was 14.7. Statistical comparisons are difficult, but some

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of the data is disturbing even if it is not surprising. Three-

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quarters of our suicides are male. In 1968, a Scottish working man

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with six % more likely to kill themselves than his equivalent in

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England. By 2010, he was 75 % more likely. The Scottish women, it the

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incidence is twice as bad than four English counterparts. It is the

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third worth in Scotland. Norway has moved in the other direction.

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Scottish male suicide figures compare with Sweden. Things are

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significantly worse in Finland, Poland and Hungary. They are

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getting better faster than we are. Southern Europe is better than the

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north. Of course, you cannot make too much from statistical

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generalisations about individual tragedies. But there are trends and

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similarities which may help people understand, predict and prevent

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some suicides. There is no typical Scottish suicide. If there were, he

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would be male, he would be aged between his mid-30s and mid-50s. He

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would be much more likely poor and rich. He would probably not be from

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the Western Isles but could be from Glasgow, or the Highlands, or

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Shetland or Galloway. He would have a skilled trade and probably be

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single. He may well have been in hospital, perhaps as a previous

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attempt of self-harm. He is likely to have had our recent prescription

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for a mental health drug. Finally, he would end his own life in his

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own home, by hanging or strangulation. I am joined from

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Edinburgh by Professor Stephen Platt, the chair of the suicide

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information database. Do you have any idea by the suicide rate here

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should be getting worse? suicide rate in Scotland as well as

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England has actually been coming down in the last ten years. The

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problem is that our rate remains about 80 % higher than that rate in

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England and Wales. So what is coming down but the gap is not

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closing? Know. You say 80 % higher. Why should that be? We carried out

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some research recently with colleagues in Manchester and

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Glasgow and looked at this. Despite our best efforts, it is difficult

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to explain all the reasons for the difference. Half of it is

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unexplained. Or perhaps we can explain, it is largely down to

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differences and a worse situation with regard to psychiatric health

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or ill-health and alcohol related and drug-related problems. On top

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of that, you have also got issues around social deprivation and the

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break-up of communities. The major contribution it seems to be around

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psychiatric, alcohol and drug factors. Give me a portrait of your

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conception of people most at risk. The people most at risk are men,

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far more than women, in the Thirties to 50s, living in the most

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deprived circumstances. Either personally or in the areas they

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live. This is part of a wider pattern common across the whole of

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the UK, so there is nothing special about this. These are people born

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around the mid-50s to the mid-70s. Some sociologists working on this

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have talked about a bar for generations. At group of people,

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particularly men, who are caught between a much more traditional,,

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up traditional background, traditional culture, very little

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change compared to a younger generation, this does -- the so-

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called new generation who are much more independent minded. People in

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this group are often struggling to know exactly where they fit. They

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have also been faced with enormous social changes, higher divorce rate

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and more single living, more partnering at losing partners,

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changes in the world of work, many social and economic changes that

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they had had to cope with, and they are often men in a situation where

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they do not feel that they had either of the emotional literacy or

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the skills to deal with this. last bit you said, is that why you

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think men rather than women? Yes, because men, at this is a class

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difference, men basically have fewer skills in relation to dealing

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with psychological and emotional problems and greater difficulty in

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knowing where to go for help. And that is across the whole all social

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classes. Briefly, the standard figure here it there is one was for

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Shetland. Has anyone done any work and why that should be. It is high

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in the Highlands and Islands, the suicide rates have been high in

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Glasgow and those are the main places. My hunch is that the reason

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for these high rates are different. I think they have a late in Glasgow

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very much to issues of social deprivation, whereas in the

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Highlands and Islands I think the issues are to do with loneliness

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and the strains of rural living, particularly in the farming

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community. Thank you very much. The papers. The Scotsman, Christmas

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rail strikes. The Scottish Daily Mail, Scots are punished by unfair

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