Everyone should feel welcome in our community, at a time when inequalities between the haves and have-nots are growing faster than the economy, says Maggie Davidson
As the mayor of Glasgow, I believe we have an opportunity and a responsibility to lead the way in ensuring everyone is included in the political and social dialogue of our city. As both a service provider and a local government minister I was concerned about the increasing barriers people felt to access the opportunities Glasgow offered.
After much discussion we drew up a draft action plan for inclusion. We looked at the experiences of different groups within our city.
We went back to the foundation of Glasgow as a society, where our foundation was based on being able to find work, have a home and financial security in return for regular hours and dedication. We were founded on a strong sense of social responsibility and aspiration to future generations. So, what will Glasgow look like in 2020?
Our free childcare services, for example, offer families financial security by helping them to better access education. These are all important parts of building a strong city. We know that more than half of those who start off with free childcare stay in education or gain skills. This is the Glasgow touch.
But we all feel excluded when things are harder to access for us. The feeling of belonging and community is important. People want to be part of our city and want to be part of community. In Glasgow, we have a strong sense of community. We are the city of the 13,000 leagues, the friends you can count on who are like you. Our sporting teams are recognised world-wide for their success, our community outlets, like churches and working men’s clubs, continue to provide a clear sense of belonging.
As an active member of the St John’s communities council, I have seen and felt the benefits of being part of a network, being part of a place, an organisational structure with a clear mission and purpose. These ingredients are important in building a thriving city.
Recently I joined a local church which offers a hostel to those who have found themselves homeless. These guest guests share a quiet but lively community living together. This year will be their 20th. I witnessed first-hand the richness of the surroundings, how food is shared and decisions are made, and the tremendous sense of belonging, being part of a community.
This is one example of the types of opportunities that we can provide. Sharing experience with groups such as Welcome Youth Project and the East Falkirk Initiative could unlock the potential that this bridge between young people and adult civic society can bring.
Involvement, I believe, is about belonging. Ultimately it is about respecting the wishes of people, so it is important to respect people’s choice to not be involved. But social inclusion happens when people are properly engaged in the process of finding new, and as always, more efficient ways to deliver services to them. So, the more we work together the more people are enabled to participate in our city’s decisions, the more inclusive and healthy our community will be.
A sense of belonging is essential to long-term success. It is about reducing generational inequalities and increasing individual upward mobility, and ultimately paving the way for a stronger Glasgow, and city life in general.
Our inclusion action plan calls for policy to be data driven and evidence based, and rightly so. Just like we care about Glasgow as a person, the best policy is good evidence.
We all want to invest in Glasgow because the city offers a better future. But we have to have a clear sense of purpose that connects our decisions with community priorities. And we all have to share in this purpose, working with each other to increase wellbeing, create inclusive communities and maintain safety.
Maggie Davidson is minister of local government and public services in Scotland
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