Excess mortality in Scotland and Glasgow: An unintended consequence of the pursuit of new towns policy as an ‘assumed normative’?

Chik Collins, Ian Levitt

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In the second half of the twentieth century, new towns became a central element in a wider, central-government plan to develop a new, ‘modernized’ economy and society in central Scotland – one which would achieve high growth economically, a healthier and happier living environment, and a new, and more ‘civilised’ set of social relationships. The plan was developed by, and its implementation driven from, the UK government’s Scottish Office, based in Edinburgh – which operated with a high degree of administrative autonomy from London. The plan was based on the movement of population and industry to new towns and other ‘growth areas’ – in particular movement from Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow. The manner in which this plan was developed and implemented has been described as an “assumed normative”. Within a few years of the plan, it was apparent that there were significant problems in achieving the plan’s desired aims, and also that its implementation was having severely deleterious impacts on the city of Glasgow itself. Yet, there was no proportionate adjustment to policy, and new towns were to remain central to economic and social planning in Scotland until after the millennium. In 2016, the results of a major research project looking to explain the troubling phenomenon of ‘excess mortality’ in Scotland and Glasgow concluded that new town’s policy had been a key causal factor. This paper will draw on research in government archives to show how a misplaced “assumed normative” in new towns policy led to seriously adverse unintended consequences for Scotland and Glasgow. Through this, the paper will aim to foster reflexive awareness and consideration of the likely unintended consequences of new towns policy in the future, and to encourage thinking and planning in alignment with that.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2022
EventHealth, Housing and Wellbeing in the UK New Towns: International Conference and Study Day - Maison de la Recherche de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, France
Duration: 7 Apr 20228 Apr 2022


ConferenceHealth, Housing and Wellbeing in the UK New Towns
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