Backlash after Ferguslie Park rated 'most deprived'

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Media captionWhat do people in Ferguslie Park make of their area being named the most deprived in Scotland?

Residents of a Paisley housing scheme have hit back after official statistics rated it the most deprived community in Scotland.

They claimed the Scottish government figures did not paint a "true picture" of Ferguslie Park.

It followed the publication of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), which rates 7,000 communities by factors including health and income.

Locals said the area has a "fantastic community spirit".

It is the second successive time that Ferguslie Park has featured at the bottom of the official deprivation index, which is published every four years.

Parish priest Father Oliver Freney told BBC's radio's Good Morning Scotland programme he was "quite disappointed" by the results.

He said: "There are plenty of good people living in Ferguslie and people that do care about the Ferguslie area and put a lot of work into trying to up it."

Another resident, Heather Sloan, told the programme that she won a place at university as mature student, despite leaving school with no qualifications.

She now has a "flourishing" career with the NHS - but she still lives in Ferguslie Park.

Image copyright Heather Sloan
Image caption Heather Sloan said Ferguslie Park was a "brilliant place" to live

"I ended up at university just because I lived in Ferguslie Park and there was great initiatives a number of years back," she said.

"I was a mum of four kids and I was able to go and do an English class, a maths class and I got enough to get into university."

She added: "I still choose to live in Ferguslie Park because I think it's a brilliant place to live in."

"We get all the stigma and all the labels, but nobody comes into Ferguslie and actually sees the community spirit that's out here.

"We've got a fantastic community spirit and we should be looking at the assets that Ferguslie Park's got and not constantly looking at the deficits all the time."

Ian Williams told Good Morning Scotland that he set up the Environmental Training Team to try to clean up the community, on the back of a series of bad media reports.

He gathers together people who have been unemployed for a long periods in a bid to improve area and boost their confidence.

Image copyright ETT
Image caption Local residents volunteer to clean up Ferguslie and its surrounding areas
Image copyright ETT
Image caption Volunteers with the Environmental Training Team carry out more than 365 clean-ups a year

Mr Williams said: "If you keep getting told you're a deprived area, you're no good, you'll never get anywhere, you're applying for 500 jobs a day and your postcode says we can't take you on because you stay in Ferguslie Park... your confidence goes."

He added: "We try our hardest to get the stigma away that we're a deprived area."

Renfrewshire Council's leader Mark Macmillan said: "The figures don't tell the whole story of Ferguslie, of the community, of the changes that have been made."

He pointed to projects aimed at young children and families and he said residents would also benefit from a City Deal which could "change the economy of Renfrewshire".

But he said SIMD figures proved that local government funding required reform.

'Generational change'

Mr Macmillan said: "Sadly, since 2012, the cuts to Renfrewshire Council year-on-year by the Scottish government have meant a 10% real terms cut in the amount of money that Renfrewshire Council has to spend to make a difference.

"If the government continues to cut local government in the way it does, and expects a different result, and expects more investment, that simply can't happen. We need a change in the way local government is funded."

When the statistics were published on Wednesday, Communities Secretary Angela Constance said she was determined to "take on the challenge of making a generational change for those areas that have been in poverty for too long."

"In the face of continuing UK government welfare cuts, an austerity agenda and attempts to take Scotland out of Europe, this will continue to be a long-term challenge," she added.

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