Thousands of Scots have had their voices heard in a national discussion about how to make Scotland a fairer and more equal country, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said today. More than 1,000 people from voluntary groups, charities and businesses took part in a summer of Fairer Scotland public events, with social media platforms attracting over 10,000 visitors.
The listening exercise has raised issues such social security sanctions, the working poor, access to affordable childcare and housing, health services and education. Mr Neil said:
“This summer, travelling up and down the country, I have seen at first hand the grass roots spirit come alive in our cities, towns and villages.
“Issues such as access to affordable childcare, fair work, the national health service and changes to the social security system have dominated the discussions.
Mr Neil’s journey around Scotland brought him to Kirkcaldy, where he visited Fife Voluntary Action’s New Volunteer House, a ‘hub’ for Fife’s third sector organisations. While on-site he met with a group of Fifers from various communities and backgrounds, and spent some time chatting about the issues that mattered to them.
FVA’s Chief Executive Kenny Murphy said: “This was a unique opportunity for local people, many facing extreme challenges and hardship, to have the ear of the Cabinet Secretary.
“I was impressed by their honesty and bravery when talking about problems they face such as health conditions, unemployment, benefit sanctions, homelessness and providing for their children.
“It was a moving experience for me personally and very humbling, and I know the Cabinet Secretary was touched by what he heard too.
“I look forward to seeing what proposals come out of this listening exercise to ensure Scotland becomes a fairer and more inclusive nation.”
The autumn phase of the Fairer Scotland discussion will take place in town and village halls stretching from Stornoway to Dumfries. Almost 40 events have already been confirmed with 3,000 people expected to be involved.