Scots show solidarity with vulnerable groups

19 July 2017

Scots show solidarity with vulnerable groups

Research conducted at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has revealed that people in Scotland and Northern Ireland feel much stronger solidarity with vulnerable groups in society than other parts of the UK do.

The concept of international solidarity has received heightened attention in recent times due to the various financial, asylum and political crises that have affected the European Union since 2008.

Even though the European Union developed a number of policy measures which have opened the door to financial assistance, the EU remained committed to a bail-out policy package that delegated financial liabilities and risks to nation-states threatened by bankruptcy. The increased inflow of refugees from Syria and other regions affected by war also highlighted the inability of the EU to agree on a coordinated asylum policy and mechanisms of admission and integration.

In response, TransSOL (European paths to transnational solidarity at times of crisis) is a three-year EU-funded €2.5m research project, led by the University of Siegen, which presents the findings of a representative survey among a total of 16,000 citizens of eight European countries.

According to the researchers, the success of populist parties, the Brexit vote, and the mobilisation of Eurosceptic and xenophobic protests across Europe has raised further concerns that European solidarity might be at risk.

Here in the UK, the research team found that post-financial crisis, austerity has impacted on public services and local economies, and a highly divisive European referendum has polarised UK society and transformed the political landscape by reopening internal divisions regarding the constitutional future of the UK.

The research team from Glasgow Caledonian University, led by Professor Simone Baglioni from the University’s Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, together with the University of Sheffield, analysed how people in the UK expressed their solidarity with others, by donating money or time, attending protests, buying or boycotting goods for a particular goal, as well as being a passive, or an active member of an organisation in favour of specific groups or causes.

In Scotland, a far higher proportion of respondents supported the rights of local people, those in Europe and outside the European Union than respondents in England and Wales did. There was also stronger solidarity expressed in Scotland and Northern Ireland for vulnerable groups – refugees, the unemployed and the disabled.

The disabled are the group with the greatest degree of support across all four constituent nations of the UK, indicating that in the UK disabled people are deemed the most deserving of our three vulnerable groups. However, there is an uneven distribution with the highest levels of solidarity to be found in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Professor Simone Baglioni of the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at GCU said: “Our research provides a unique contribution to the debate on divergence between the constituent nations of the UK by focusing on practices of solidarity and our results do suggest that there is a divergence between these contexts within the UK.

“We have sought to uncover how solidarity, through activism, protest, donations of time and money and organisational membership is practiced in contemporary Britain. What the analysis of our data reveals is that solidarity is not only scarce but unevenly distributed in terms of geography and the vulnerabilities of different groups.”

Read the report at http://transsol.eu/outputs/reports/

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