New figures which reveal high levels of poverty in communities in Ayrshire are “completely unacceptable”, according to South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) publication, released yesterday, is a tool for identifying the places in Scotland where people are experiencing disadvantage across different aspects of their lives.

SIMD gives a ranking for 6,976 small areas, or data zones, which shows how deprived that area is compared to other areas.

Across South, East and North Ayrshire there are more than 30 areas which fall within the top 10 per cent most deprived.

Indeed, Shortlees in Kilmarnock is 18th most deprived overall, with Ayr North Harbour, Wallacetown and Newton South 22nd, Saltcoats Central 26th, Altonhill South, Longpark and Hillhead 30th and Doon Valley South is 42nd.

However, Colin Smyth believes that the report underestimates the scale of poverty in the region because SMID often masks rural poverty.

SIMD is based on measuring poverty using geographical “areas”. Over half of people on low income do not live in the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland. In a rural areas people living in poverty can often be living next to those on high income within the geographical area SMID uses.

By measuring the average wealth in an area SMID therefore doesn’t pick up pockets of poverty in small rural communities.

South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “These figures are completely unacceptable.

“Following the constant Scottish Government budget cuts suffered by councils and the welfare cuts from the UK Government, I’m not surprised that so many areas across Ayrshire feature in the publication.

“However, I believe these figures underestimate the scale of poverty in this region. The index shows where there are high populated areas with a concentration of people on low incomes. That fails to recognise that the population in rural areas is more spread out with smaller pockets of real poverty not just in one area. I believe we would benefit from a different measure of rural poverty.

“It beggars belief that in 2020, your postcode can still be the determining factor in your quality of life.

“This is a result of years of complacency from SNP Ministers and lack of investment in our communities, and must be a wake-up call to ramp up efforts across government to end these shameful inequalities.”

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