Glasgow Pollok constituency: Voters fighting a stereotype

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Media captionWhat issues matter to the voters in Glasgow Pollok?

It looks a little - a little - like the map of Italy. You know, that boot shape - from Milan in the north to Calabria, in the toe.

On balance, I think I will not stretch the parallel too far in that I am talking about the constituency boundaries of Glasgow Pollok, a keenly contested seat in these Holyrood elections.

That stretches from the Govan shipyard on the Clyde down through solid communities such as Penilee, Cardonald and Mosspark, through the parish of Pollok itself to Priesthill and finally Nitshill, at the very edge of the city of Glasgow.

There is pride here, there is determination. But there is also poverty and despair. Pollok ranks pretty low in most statistical analyses of urban deprivation.

Statistics, eh? They tell you something - but so little, so little. Instead, I went wandering around the constituency, taking a glance and, much more importantly, talking to people.

Let me tell you of just two conversations on that journey. The man who described, graphically, the experience of witnessing the impact of isolation upon the constituency's young people.

Image caption Voters in Glasgow Pollok have been having their say ahead of the 5 May election

He told me of seeing them leave school, bright and still relatively hopeful. Then of encountering the same youngsters a year, two years later. Avoiding the cold stare in their dull eyes.

Now, is this hyperbole? Perhaps, perhaps. Maybe the kids weren't quite so fresh faced after education. Maybe they weren't so threatening after a spell searching for work.

But maybe the hype only slightly inflates the reality. Of generations, neglected.

Then another conversation with a young woman who insists, repeatedly, that she is proud of Pollok. Proud to live there. Proud of the people.

Her regret is that a stereotype tends to attach to such constituencies. Hey, I may be falling into the same trap myself - although I hope not. I try neither to idealise nor to marginalise proletarian communities such as those found in the Pollok constituency.

Who will speak up for the people?

I think what links the two conversations mentioned earlier - and the others I had - is that folk are seeking a champion. Someone to stand up for them. For Pollok. For Glasgow. For Scotland.

And that, surely, lies at the core of the contest here and in so many seats. Who will speak up - not just loudly, not just volubly, but effectively - for people?

Can Labour reassert its traditional role in that respect? Or has it been transferred to the SNP, particularly when it comes to speaking up for Scotland?

Post referendum, the focus seems to be upon Scottish interests - and the SNP has successfully collared that market, to a large degree, although not without persistent challenge from rivals.

Pollok is the latest in my series of constituencies to visit, to profile.

It offers a fascinating contest between the former Labour leader Johann Lamont and Humza Yousaf, regarded as a rising star in the SNP. An archetype of a battle being fought in many seats across Scotland.

Of course, there's more to this battle. Contesting the constituency for the Conservatives is Thomas Haddow; for the Liberal Democrats, Isabel Nelson; and for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Ian Leech.

Hope they all meet the folk I met. Hope they have answers.

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