Responding to the recent publication of Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) figures, Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has repeated calls to treat the figures with caution when it comes to rural and island communities.
While the SIMD figures suggest that Orkney has no areas amongst the most deprived 20% of Scotland, Mr McArthur has highlighted that this shouldn’t disguise the fact that Orkney, like almost every other community in Scotland, is affected by poverty and need.
Mr McArthur has lodged an amendment to a motion by Glasgow Shettleston MSP, John Mason, highlighting that SIMD is less reliable in identifying areas of poverty and deprivation in rural and island areas. Orkney’s MSP has also urged Scottish and UK Ministers not to be overly reliant on the measure when making decisions about spending.
Commenting on the issue Orkney’s MSP said:
“While generally SIMD is a helpful tool for identifying areas of deprivation, it is not a good indicator when it comes to rural and island areas. It fails to pick up pockets of need and poverty within smaller and often more sparsely populated communities.
“Yet that need is no less real and should not be overlooked by government when it comes to making decisions about where funding should be targeted. Those MSPs calling for SIMD to determine those decisions risk opening up an urban-rural divide. That is precisely what happened when the Scottish Government first introduced its Pupil Equity Fund, which ignored the needs of children in communities across vast swathes of the country, including Orkney.
“Orkney is a wonderful place to live and work, for so many reasons, but no-one should be under any illusion that poverty exists in rural and island communities. I certainly believe that a person’s need rather than their postcode should determine whether they are entitled to help.
“SIMD should certainly inform the debate about how we allocate support, but it is important that we don’t fall into the trap of using it as the sole measure. I will continue to make this point to the government and urge them to treat the figures with caution and ensure that funding decisions are properly island-proofed”.