Index of Deprivation

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 26th June 2003.

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Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party 2:30 pm, 26th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what unit of population it will use in constructing the Scottish index of deprivation. (S2O-261)

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

The Executive has commissioned research to underpin the development of a long-term strategy for measuring deprivation in Scotland. That includes considering the size of units that might be used in an area-based index. We will make decisions once the research is complete.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for that reply. I am glad that she has not yet made up her mind and I encourage her to use as small a unit of population as possible. I highlight the Auchmill ward in my constituency of Aberdeen North, which has half of the Great Northern social inclusion partnership within it. If the minister uses the ward arrangement, there will be little prospect of financial support within the City of Aberdeen. I would much rather that we continue to use the numeration districts that were used following the 1991 census.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Any unit of definition brings its own challenges, as I am sure the member appreciates. We attempt to measure a number of factors in order to deliver an effective strategy to tackle deprivation and to ensure that we deal with concentrations of deprivation. We know that the current system is far from perfect because smaller areas are not properly picked up. There are streets that have severe deprivation in some prosperous areas, and we seek to target such areas of deprivation. The research is robust. We will give the matter great consideration to ensure that we address the issues that the member raises.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

As the minister knows, Stirling is polarised in that it has very well-off areas and very disadvantaged areas side by side, an example being Cornton and Bridge of Allan. If the research that is being done to develop the index of deprivation is not sufficient to identify smaller pockets of deprivation, will more work be undertaken to give us a more accurate analysis of where deprivation and disadvantage exist?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

The research that we are doing should give us some of the answers that we are looking for by establishing the proper unit size and levers that we need to target resources.

Sylvia Jackson knows that we believe in devolving flexibility in funding patterns, as people at the local level are sensitive to some of the issues. I know that that approach has benefited her constituency. It is a combination of ensuring that we get the unit size right and having flexibility in decision making. I assure members that we will do our best to ensure that the research is robust. It is never possible to get all the answers right in such a measurement because patterns shift, but we will make every effort to ensure that the polarity that Sylvia Jackson describes is addressed.