A guest blog by Dr Laura Robertson (Poverty Alliance) and Professor John McKendrick (Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University) introducing two reports published today for the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, which reveal attitudes towards poverty in the city of Edinburgh.

Responses to a public survey on poverty in Edinburgh found seven in ten Edinburgh residents encounter poverty in the city every day and more than eight in ten respondents felt that there is quite a lot of poverty in the city.

Edinburgh is viewed to be a divided city by income and wealth with unjust education and employment outcomes across the city. High costs of living, a lack of affordable housing and low paid employment are key concerns for citizens in Edinburgh.

It’s clear to me that housing costs within and even around Edinburgh City have risen dramatically in the last few years – wages are increasingly swallowed by rental costs. This is unsustainable and I feel the effects of this, despite considering myself to have a reasonable wage.

– Woman from Leith

In the first survey of public attitudes to poverty in Edinburgh, our research recommends that the city be bold in tackling poverty and work towards a less divided city. It is clear that the vast majority think that it is very important to tackle poverty in the city. Two in five people thought that “improving the chances of people to escape poverty” should be the main strategic goal of tackling poverty in Edinburgh.

Whilst solving poverty is a collective effort that requires structural change at a national level, including adequacy of social security benefits and increased expenditure to tackle poverty, Edinburgh holds keys to unlocking poverty in the city. Citizens have called for:

  • A need to rebalance the city focus to deal more directly with the pressing concerns of the city’s most disadvantaged.
  • A focus on making work pay ensuring that employers have a key role by providing employment opportunities that enable people to meet their everyday needs and live in the city.
  • Affordable housing for Edinburgh city residents.
  • Co-ordinated responses to poverty in Edinburgh that enable people to escape poverty by providing accessible training and education opportunities whilst also ensuring that sufficient, affordable support is available (e.g. childcare, transport) to ensure that people are able to take these opportunities.

Since this research was conducted, the impacts of Covid-19 have put significant, additional pressures on people on low incomes in Edinburgh, as cited by a recent report by the Edinburgh Poverty Commission calling for action to rebuild the city.

Full research findings: