Tackling deprivation in Scotland’s coalfields communities is still ‘unfinished business’ more than a decade after the demise of the coal industry.
That’s the conclusion of an in-depth report into the work of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust in Scotland which has spent £15m over the last ten years tackling the problem.
Around half a million people live in former mining areas, in a total of 13 local authority areas, most of them in the former coalfields of Ayrshire, Fife, Lanarkshire and Clackmannanshire.
The report, which the Trust commissioned from specialist researchers, Glasgow-based EKOS Consultants praised the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for its efforts to create jobs and for helping local organisations more than double the value of their grants by levering in support from other sources.
But it warns that the loss of the coal industry still casts a ‘long shadow’ over former mining towns and villages.
EKOS Associate Director Jonathan Coburn said: “The results of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust’s interventions since 1999 have been impressive.
“Outputs have generally met or exceeded the targets set, and the ‘basket of benefits’ produced and cost-effectiveness stands up well to comparison with other similar schemes.
“But the demise of the coal industry still casts a shadow over many communities and there remains much to be done to achieve sustainable regeneration.
“Deprivation in Scotland is still disproportionately concentrated in coalfields communities where economic recovery is at best fragile and will be tested by the current recession.
“That means there is still a strong case to be made for continued investment in coalfield regeneration and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust provides a tried and tested method of tackling these needs.”
Nicky Wilson, Scottish Trustee of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust welcomed the reports findings despite some of the stark messages.
He said: “I believe passionately that every man woman and child living in a former mining area has the right to the same opportunities to get a job and live in a healthy and prosperous community as anyone else in Scotland.
“But despite our best efforts and the energy and enthusiasm of those who live in these communities, that’s still not the case, mainly because the problems are so deep-seated.
“Creating equality of opportunity for ex-miners and their families is unfinished business for us.
“We hope that the Scottish Government will take that message on board and let us continue to give them the additional support they need.”
The Trust in Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government, with Westminster funding the organisation in England and the Welsh Assembly doing the same in Wales.
The CRT in Scotland is currently midway through a £4.7m funding round which runs from 2007 to 2011.
The report found that over the last ten years the Trust which works with local community planning partnerships to ensure that its investment contributes more strategically to local outcomes, has created 200 new jobs, protected another 100 and helped 1,300 people into work in coalfields areas.
It has created 50 new social enterprises and supported 3,000 existing ones, benefiting 85,000 people, 18,000 of them young people. The Trust also helped organisations it funds lever in £1.37 from other sources for every £1 from the Trust.
But the report also found that mining areas still haven’t recovered from the devastating loss of over 20,000 jobs in the late eighties and nineties and that unemployment in these areas has remained persistently high.
Researchers added that deprivation generally is disproportionately concentrated in the Scottish coalfields, with 28% of the local districts in former coalfields areas amongst the worst 20% in Scotland compared to 19% in other parts of the country.
“That’s why our work is unfinished and we must continue to support these communities,” added Mr Wilson.
Frankie Hodge Operations Director of Recycle Fife, which he and Chief Executive Jackie Dunsmuir started in Lochgelly with one small van six years and now employs 26 people with a turnover of £300,000 a year said:
“We have had some fantastic support from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
“In the beginning they helped us buy machinery to separate cans and plastics and more recently we got a Bridging the Gap grant to help with the move to our new premises.
“I think they are doing a great job by investing back into communities that are really struggling especially with employment and things.
“As far as I can see they have been a big, big help, and they are changing people’s lives because they are helping create jobs.”
Picture shows Nicky Wilson, Scottish Trustee of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and Frankie Hodge, Operations Director of the social enterprise Recycle Fife, which got off the groudn with a small grant from the CRT and now employs 26 people.