Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ferguslie is NOT the most deprived neighbourhood in Scotland

Ferguslie Park is. And even that statement is not right. No news outlet I’ve seen so far could be bothered to go to Ferguslie Park and speak to some of the amazing projects doing really good work in the neighbourhood or even take a photo of the nice homes provided by Ferguslie Park Housing Association and the new primary school.  The Daily Record bothered to use a Google Street View image. STV and the BBC couldn’t even be bothered doing that much, just using library images. The BBC one is particularly crass. No homes in Ferguslie Park look like this, and the woman in the foreground is just horribly stigmatising - the sort of "The Scheme" bullshit that drives the debate on this issue. 

This whole story depresses me because this is the second time “Ferguslie Park” has been the “most deprived” neighbourhood in Scotland. The last time was 2006. It’s not the entire neighbourhood. As Alasdair Rae’s fantastic Google Mapping of the SIMD 2012 shows, it’s one datazone. The ranking of this datazone in the SIMD has gone from 1 in 2006, to 2 in 2009, and now back to 1. Switch on the satellite view on the Google map and have a look at the stats behind the ranking you’ll see part of the reason why - the datazone is depopulated. It’s part of a continuing story of disinvestment, low demand and poor housing management decisions that have characterised Ferguslie Park since it was built. As the Community Development Project in the neighbourhood in the 1970s concluded, this slum clearance housing was “cuts housing neglected before it was built”.

One thing I have to make clear, I think SIMD is a fantastic tool and I welcome the Scottish Government’s continued investment in it. What angers me is this sort of reporting of “Ferguslie” being the most deprived and Craiglockhart the least deprived. It’s just inaccurate. For a start, it’s Ferguslie PARK (it was the park land of the Coats’ mansion which backed onto their Ferguslie Mill). It’s not the entire neighbourhood, it’s one datazone. If you want to give it a name, call it Candren. The index is relative, so as one community activist put it to me (I paraphrase here): “we only came out bottom because they knocked down places in Glasgow worse than us”. And Craiglockhart is not the least deprived. It’s a deprivation index, not an affluence index, so once you get up to the top of the index it’s essentially meaningless (also, see Alasdair Rae's fantastic "what does it all mean" page).

What really angers me is that this sort of reporting feeds into the stigma which helps keep Ferguslie Park a deprived neighbourhood; which isolates its residents and lowers their life chances. As I pointed out in this paper(£*) the stigma towards Ferguslie Park is so great that it is likely that any regeneration programme will be termed unsuccessful. The “feckless feegies” as the other residents of Paisley call them, don’t “deserve” the community centre, new housing and other facilities they have – the real successes of the regeneration programme. If the neighbourhood is misnamed the “most deprived” in Scotland then this is similarly just typical of those “feckless feegies”.

As far as I’m concerned we need to make Craiglockhart the problem neighbourhood. Why does this neighbourhood of horrendous new build flats and bungalows have so few unemployed people – that’s really weird. Why do they have such high educational qualifications – surely some of them have messed around at school at some point in their lives? Why is there so little social housing? Why are there only three children of school age? (and why aren’t those stats anonymised?) Why are there so many young men? Frankly, I think they need to knock down Craiglockhart and start again. Yuppies don’t deserve such nice housing.

There's a very funny book from many moons ago called Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. The politically correct version of Snow White is "Snow White and the Seven Towering Giants" not because the dwarves were, but because they had "towering" personalities. Much as this is satire, it is this change in language that we need to see if we are going to tackle neighbourhood deprivation in a constructive way. If you're looking for bonding social capital, then I can assure you, Ferguslie Park has bucket loads of that compared to Craiglockhart.

* as ever, my paper is behind an academic paywall. I won't get into a debate on open access. If you want a copy of my paper please contact me by Twitter or email and I'll happily send you a copy. In the New Year the University online depository goes live and you'll be able to get a green open access version. 


  1. Great post. I grew up in Renfrewshire and worked at the Phoenix retail park in my, ahem, youth and as your post makes clear it is a lot more nuanced than some of the crude headlines make out. As you note, there are many initiatives, and even the new St Mirren stadium's location might make a difference (although that is speculation on my part - I appreciate many people will just drive or train to Paisley St James then leave after a game).

  2. I found it interesting chatting to people brought up in Paisley who would often drive through Ferguslie Park to get to the Phoenix and never even realise the neighbourhood was there.

  3. possibly you mean 'feckless Fegs'? Feegie is the area, Fegs are the residents..
    I was a Feg, born and 'bred' on Greenhill Road