Opportunities in Scotland's most economically fragile areas are at risk due to the slashing of Scottish Government funding for former coal-mining communities, a reduction far in excess of Coalition cuts in England, according to the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT).
Established in 1999 to support jobs-boosting projects in former coal-mining villages and towns devastated by pit closures, the charity has seen funding reduced by £1 million a year in 2012-13 – more than two-thirds – while the equivalent body in England has seen only 12.5% cut, and Wales none.
Nicky Wilson, Scottish trustee and vice-chairman of the CRT disputed the Scottish Government's claim that other sources of funding were available to replace the missing cash, saying many of the CRT's projects are of insufficient scale or otherwise ineligible for general community funds.
Wilson, a former National Union of Mineworkers official, said: "The need for our support is every bit as great in Fife, East Ayrshire and Scotland's other former mining areas, as the rest of the UK.
"Based on our past achievements, that £1m would have created 50 jobs throughout the Scottish coalfields, helped another 160 people into work and started 10 new social enterprises, as well as providing a host of other social benefits.
"Withdrawing funding for grants will have a devastating effect on former mining communities, which still lag behind the rest of the country, particularly with the recession, in job creation and employment opportunities, health and transport links."
The CRT expressed gratitude for the £500,000 it did receive from the Scottish Government, which it is using to fund development support, to identify and support new social entrepreneurs, and for projects such as "Wheels to Work". Initiated by a £65,000 CRT grant and run by Mary Parry of My Bus, the scheme provided scooters to people whose job opportunities were limited by the poor transport links that blight former pit communities throughout the central belt.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We are committed to the regeneration of our ex-coalfield communities. A range of support is in place to support local organisations in ex-coalfield communities, including through the Scottish Government's People and Communities Fund, and the Big Lottery."
Covering 89 communities in 14 local authority areas, between 2001-2011 the CRT in Scotland claims to have helped 3750 people with skills development, helped 1634 into work, and created 2835 volunteer opportunities.
The Scottish Government cut the Coalfields Regeneration Trust's budget for this year by 67% from £1.57m to £510,000 in 2012-13. The Coalition Government in Westminster has cut England's £16m funding by 12.5% to £14m. Wales receives £930,000 this year, the same as last year.