Fun - A Rare Commodity in Scotland
Fun is an increasingly rare commodity in Scotland
by Derek Mitchell, CAS Chief Executive.
This article was first published in the Herald on 5 August 2023.
This week we published some new research about the cost of living crisis. Nothing new in that, you might think – we talk about it regularly. But the focus of this data was a bit different from usual.
Usually we highlight the real crisis poverty issues - the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma. Cases that are all too common, and will always be our priority.
But the CAB networks also sees many people from the level just above that: what used to be called the ‘Just About Managing’. People who are just avoiding poverty, but only by cutting back on leisure and social activities - the ‘fun’ things of life. We wanted to highlight this issue, so we asked Yougov to do some polling on it.
The research revealed that the cost of living crisis has forced 41% of people in Scotland to give up some kind of social activity, like eating out with friends. 36% couldn’t afford a holiday, and 23% had given up a hobby.
I find these figures really sad. Of course, missing out on a hobby isn’t as serious as missing meals or having your gas cut off. But it matters. It has an impact on a person’s mental health, and that’s something we should all care about.
You know that childhood holiday that always makes you smile to think of it? You and your family grinning away at the camera. It may be on Sunset Strip or on a chilly beach in Ayr – it doesn’t matter. It’s your priceless personal memory. Well, there are kids today who may never have those memories. Lockdown stopped people going on holiday for two years, and then when it ended over a third of us can’t afford to go.
Likewise, going out to the pub less and giving up that gym membership is bound to impact your sense of self and emotional well-being.
There’s one particular figure from the data that really struck me: 3% of people have given up a pet because they can’t afford to keep it. We calculate that’s around 137,000 people in Scotland.
Some will scoff, but for many people their dog or cat is their only companion, a source of comfort against loneliness, especially for older or isolated people.
I’ve been a dog owner myself, so maybe it’s easier for me to empathise with what must be a heart-breaking decision. Imagine being a parent in that situation and having to tell your children.
And think too about the knock-on effects of all this on the economy. Restaurants, pubs and cafes will certainly suffer if two fifths of their customers stop coming in. That means wages cut, jobs lost, businesses failing; more people claiming benefits instead of paying taxes.
So why am I depressing you with all this on a Saturday? Because we want to make the point that there’s more to the cost of living crisis than missed meals and unpaid energy bills; to acknowledge and give a voice to those who are in that the next level up. The people who are quietly suffering the loss of fun.
Because it matters. People need not just the essentials of life, but also the things that make life worth living.
Governments must to do all they can to restore an economy that understands that.