'Hidden austerity costs' outlined by ex-chief medical officer


Scotland's former chief medical officer is expected to outline "the hidden costs of austerity" at the Scottish Green conference in Glasgow today.

Sir Harry Burns will share a platform with food blogger and anti-poverty campaign Jack Monroe and MSPs Alison Johnstone and John Wilson at the second day of the Scottish Greens' biggest ever conference at the Clyde Auditorium.

Around 700 people attended the first day of conference yesterday, around seven times more than previous conferences after the party ranks swelled from 1,200 members to over 9,000 following its popular but unsuccessful campaign for a Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

Conference will also hear from Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Conference, and Scottish Green co-convener Maggie Chapman.

Writing in the Daily Record last week, Sir Harry said Chancellor George Osborne's austerity agenda "is making Scotland a sicker, poorer nation".

He said: "A growing number of economists argue that austerity is damaging prospects for long term economic recovery.

"Societies in which economic growth is distributed fairly are healthier, have longer life expectancy, lower crime rates, lower rates of substance misuse and better educational outcomes.

"Inclusive growth is about harnessing our economic potential in a way that increases productivity while also producing a healthier society in which the benefits of growth are shared by all."

He added: "The Scottish Government published their economic strategy, putting tackling inequality and boosting competitiveness at the heart of its agenda.

"Their commitment is demonstrated by recent actions to increase the level of funded early learning and childcare; establish the Fair Work Convention; establish the Scottish Business Pledge; take action to improve educational attainment; invest in affordable housing.

"We need to ensure that we continue to focus on these real challenges. By providing early years support, by investing in education and skills and by removing barriers to participation, I am optimistic that we can create the conditions for a more productive and inclusive economy.

"A wealthier, fairer Scotland will be also be a healthier home for us all."