A KIRKCALDY economist has hit back at a report which claimed the recession could spell the end for the town.
Richard Marsh, a director with a local consulting company, says that the fact the Lang Toun has a high percentage of its workforce in public sector jobs makes it less rather than more vulnerable to cutbacks in public spending.
Mr Marsh told the Press he was interested in the recent story about the Index of Vulnerability, which, from a random selection of 90 places throughout Scotland, placed Kirkcaldy as the 19th most at risk from the effects of the recession, as he sits on two Scottish Government groups on economic statistics and is also an elected fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, regularly working in such areas.
He said: “There are drawbacks with any measure used to benchmark places, but the index overstates the vulnerability of towns in Fife.
‘‘The index suggests that towns are more vulnerable where a high share of local jobs come from the public sector.
‘‘This may be true in towns which are increasingly relying on employment in the public sector under the shadow of local government spending cuts. But many towns cited in the index serve as long-established civic centres for local government.
‘‘This means public sector workers will inevitably account for a larger share of jobs in these towns through no lack of endeavour from local businesses. It is questionable whether these centres are likely to be genuinely under threat from the squeeze on public sector budgets.
“There are over 20,000 jobs in Kirkcaldy with the public sector providing employment for around one in three people.
‘‘But nearly one quarter of all jobs in Kirkcaldy - and therefore most public sector jobs - are linked to the health sector and the newly extended Victoria Hospital. As well as the Victoria hospital, there’s schools and the Adam Smith College that serve communities across central Fife.
“It’s not unreasonable to suggest that the high share of public sector employment is because Kirkcaldy acts a civic centre for public services delivered across central Fife.
‘‘If you follow the reasoning behind the vulnerability index then the recent £170 million investment extending the Victoria Hospital has made Kirkcaldy more vulnerable.
“So could the recession kill Kirkcaldy?
‘‘No, but the index doesn’t provide any evidence that the recession will be any more or less painful in Kirkcaldy than elsewhere in Scotland.”