Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Third of Scots 'breadline poor'

Man walks past boarded up flats in Glasgow
Scotland had the highest poverty levels and worst death rate of the regions

Almost a third of Scottish households are "breadline poor", according to research commissioned by the BBC.

Changing UK - a study conducted by Sheffield University - looked at how nations and regions within Britain have altered over the past four decades.

It said Scotland had the largest number of poor people in each of the last four decades, as well as the highest death rate of all 14 regions examined.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) described the figures as "a scandal".

The data was drawn from official sources and divided into 14 BBC television regions and 45 BBC Radio station areas, with Scotland defined as one of the TV regions.

The report said that in each decade since 1970, Scotland had the highest proportion of people in the breadline poor category.

The category is defined as a poverty line so low that people are excluded from participating in "the norms of society".

In 1970, 27% of the Scottish population was classed as breadline poor, with the figure dropping to 23% in 1980.

At times of recession, investing in our poorest families is the most effective way to boost the economy
John Dickie

By 1990, 27% of Scots fell into the category, but this rose to 32% in 2000, according to the report.

The proportion of people in Scotland classified as "asset wealthy" also rose, while the middle category of non-poor, non-wealthy was squeezed, indicating that the gap between rich and poor had widened over the 40-year period.

John Dickie, head of CPAG in Scotland said: "Across Scotland the number of families living below the poverty line remains a scandal.

"There is nothing inevitable about this injustice, an injustice that damages children's health, education and wellbeing in profound ways.

"Whilst real progress has been made in the last 10 years in tackling child poverty, that progress has not gone far enough and has recently stalled completely."

He called for "substantial extra investment" in child benefit and tax credits from the UK Government.

'Extra money'

"At times of recession, investing in our poorest families is not just the right thing to do morally, it is the most effective way to boost the economy as our worst off families have no choice but to spend any extra money immediately in the local economy," he added.

Meanwhile, Office for National Statistics data revealed that Scotland had the highest mortality ratio of the 14 regions, with people north of the border 17% more likely to die on any given day, week, month and year than the average Briton.

The researchers said this statistic took into account that the country's average age was 41.7 and said there were 17% more deaths than would have been expected.

But the mortality ratio in Glasgow was the highest of all the nations and regions analysed in the study, at 31%.

Professor Robert Wright
Professor Robert Wright said Scotland had become more segregated

Other issues covered in the report included housing, with the report finding that more new homes were built north of the border in 2006 - 20,058 - than any other BBC TV region.

Population trends were also analysed, with Scotland's falling by 1% in the period 1981-2006. The only other area to experience a decline was the north west of England.

Meanwhile, Glasgow's population has dropped by 12% since 1981.

Robert Wright, professor of economics at Strathclyde University's business school, said there had been a drift in population from the west of Scotland to the east.

"The younger part of the population in Scotland is concentrating in the east," he said.

"There's a big gap in the standard of living between Glasgow and Edinburgh."

The researchers also measured loneliness by looking at four factors: the number of non-married adults and one-person households, the number of people who rent privately and those who moved to their current address within the past year.

'Transient population'

These factors indicated that people were less likely to be involved in their local community or feel part of it, the researchers said.

Loneliness increased in Scotland, according to the measurements, from 18.5% in 1971, to 28.5% in 2001, making it the third loneliest region in the UK.

The study found Edinburgh had the largest number of lonely people, with a third of its population falling into the category.

Professor Wright said rural areas were usually considered as more community focused than cities and that the loneliness trend may be explained by the city having a high student population.

He said: "A lot of cities have a transient population, who are there for a short period of time to study, for example."

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