What is it like to live in poverty in Edinburgh?

Paul Stewart works as a volunteer tour guidePaul Stewart works as a volunteer tour guide
Paul Stewart works as a volunteer tour guide
PAUL Stewart grew up in “abject poverty” in Leith. “I remember we had to eat bread with salt and vinegar,” he says.

Since leaving home at 16 he has moved around the country and lived abroad, but has had many spells of homelessness over the years.

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Now 53, he is back in Edinburgh and working as a volunteer tour guide with Invisible Cities, but has to survive on £43 a week.

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"I get £68 a week in benefits,” he says. “But last year I got ripped off by an employer for about a month’s wages and that put me into rent arrears. My benefit doesn’t cover the whole rent so I have to pay £25 a week straight to the council, leaving me £43 to live of. No way is that acceptable in the fifth largest economy in the world.

"Sometimes I’ve not had enough money for a toilet roll. Can you imagine the shame in having to go to a shopping centre to use a toilet and stealing toilet paper from it?"

Mr Stewart did tour-guide training at Edinburgh College and would like to get a full-time job. “I’ve worked for most of my life,” he says. “I’m not one for sitting on benefits. People think it’s an easy life, but I’d like to see them try it.

"A lord gets £320 a day – that’s what someone on benefits gets for a month. Prince Andrew just took a flight costing £16,000 – that would take me five years on benefits to get.”

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