The Valuable Anchor of Social Security

“How we deliver social security speaks fundamentally to who we are especially as we emerge out of a violent pandemic.”

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 21/09/2020 [Online] Available:  Ewan Gurr: ‘Social Security Scotland deal will be good for us all’ [Accessed: 2020, Sep 22] 

Last Wednesday, it was revealed that Social Security Scotland had signed a 20 year lease on the waterfront location of site six. Whichever manner in which we citizens of Dundee choose to perceive the structure, there is no doubt this is outstanding news for our city. The economic value of their habitation is estimated at around £100 million and they now have the potential capacity to employ 900 staff in Dundee, many of whom are yet to be recruited, but social security itself also has a moral value.

William Beveridge, the founder of our welfare state, whilst defending his declaration of war on the five great evils and arguing for universal welfare provision against claims of feather-bedding a workshy generation, once said: “Adventure came not from the half-starved, but from those who were well fed enough to feel ambition.” His vision was of a social contract between the state and the citizen that offered both financial support on one hand and also a springboard to employment on the other.

Since then, social security has been enshrined in statute. The right to social security, as alluded to in Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, requires states to ensure all individuals enjoy basic income security throughout their lives within an adequate framework of participation, transparency and accountability. The first line of the Social Security (Scotland) Act of 2018 states: “social security is an investment in the people of Scotland.

How we deliver social security speaks fundamentally to who we are and this question is particularly prescient as we emerge out of the smoke of a violent pandemic. The new report published by Professor Olivier De Schutter, the current UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, states most developed economies, which had not yet recovered from a preceding decade of austerity, were “… ill-equipped to deal with the socioeconomic impacts of this pandemic…”

Of the four main Scottish cities, Dundee has historically felt like the awkward, left behind and second-class sibling in our nation’s emerging commercial and cultural mosaic. Edinburgh has held the revered status as the country’s capital, Glasgow is the renowned city of culture and the commercial benefits of oil and gas have been an economic anchor to Aberdeen for the best part of five decades. However, even the pragmatic citizens of Dundee know that the fortunes of our city are changing.

Frederick Douglass once said: “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.” One of the big developments for Social Security Scotland will be the launch of Scottish Child Payment which, at full roll out, is anticipated to benefit 443,000 children in Scotland and lift around 30,000 out of relative poverty. The Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville, was right when she said: “This is something which Dundee can be really proud of.”

It is and we are.