Cost of living crisis: ‘We don’t really live anymore’

  • By Emma Clifford Bell
  • BBC Scotland cost of living producer


Shelby Harrob says her tight budget means she can only buy the basics.

As the cost of living crisis continues, BBC Scotland has looked at how people across the country are doing.

“We’re not really living anymore, there’s no life,” says 26-year-old Shelby Harrob, from Whitburn in West Lothian.

“You wake up and it’s just the same old, same thing.”

”We used to go on day trips, I used to like swimming, singing, shopping, but I can’t do that anymore. There are no luxuries in life, really, it’s just survival, really.”

The former carer had to stop working after developing dermatitis on her hands. She is now finding ways to get by living on Universal Credit.

“It’s not enough. It’s very, very hard,” she says. “You have to make everything stretch. I visit friends and get half bags of sugar and things like that.”

Her tight budget means Shelby can only buy the basics.

”You need your butter, you need your milk, your cheese, your staples instead of maybe chocolate, crisps – I can’t afford it, she says.

Her trips to the community fridge in town are a lifeline that provides affordable and free food to anyone who needs it.

Despite the current struggles, Shelby is determined to stay positive and dreams of going to the Eiffel Tower one day and finding a new job.

“I keep the good aura,” she says. “There is always light at the end of the tunnel.”

‘I don’t want to be trapped in a job for the rest of my life’


Kirstie Russell hopes to have a career as a music teacher one day

Also in Whitburn, Kirstie Russell hopes to have a career as a music teacher one day, but in the meantime she is doing her best to save up to afford college.

The 20-year-old barista had an offer to study music in Edinburgh but put off a year of work during the pandemic. Now she’s worried she’s stuck in a job making coffee instead of music.

“It’s been quite hard to think that I might be trapped in a job for the rest of my life,” she says. “But I know I want to study music at some point, even if it takes a few years.”

“I’d rather at this point in my life study more and work on weekends,” she says.

“I can’t drive at the moment, so I would take the train or the bus if I was going to college. I would have to find my own accommodation,” she says. “I need money for it.”

‘Getting things to the islands is a real struggle’


Fisherman Calum Maclean says things are about to get a lot harder

Standing on the pier in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, fisherman Calum Maclean looks back at the brightly colored buildings.

He has been at sea since he was 15 or 16 years old, but a lot has changed since then for this island community.

“We’ve been fishermen here for generations, but things are getting a lot harder today with the cost of living,” he says.

“Getting things to the islands is a real struggle with the cost of ferries and fuel.”

The creel boat owner says the fishing industry has its ups and downs, but “you just have to take the rough with the smooth”.

“The problem is getting people here to work,” he says. “Summer is a real struggle to get people here.”

Calum has also noticed that life is more difficult at home.

“Having a family is a dear hobby these days, but we just have to keep fighting,” he says. “Food is very expensive. It’s an expensive place to live today.”

The father of two recently built his own home in the area and wants to continue living on the island.

“If I hadn’t had kids, I would have been gone, but it’s a great life for the kids here,” he says.

“Your houses are safe, your children are safe, you’re only a couple of hours to Glasgow or Oban, so they can adapt to either lifestyle quite easily. It’s a lovely part of the world.”

“I don’t think working families are being provided for enough”


Claire Mackenzie Noble must carefully consider whether the bakery can survive

For Claire Mackenzie Noble, owning Tobermory Bakery is a dream come true.

The mother of two first worked there as a shop girl aged 17. Now the pressure on her to save the company from closure is enormous.

“The bakery is seen as the heart of Tobermory,” she says. “We have mainly working mothers and that’s also their income in their household.”

Claire has to carefully consider whether the bakery can survive – with the energy bill expected to rise to £10,000 a month.

“We’re lucky enough to have a permanent contract until December and we’re around £2,000 a month. But we look to see it go about five times more after December.”

“It’s a bit of a crisis at the moment,” she says. “It’s just adding up and adding up.”

Essential ingredients for the store have also increased by about 47%.

If the shop can’t stay open, Claire and her family may have to consider a new life on the mainland.

“I don’t know if I could stay here and walk past the bakery every day,” she says. “I would be really disappointed and sad to move. That’s all I’ve known. I have my family here, my friends here, got the business here and I just don’t want that.”

At home she lives with her husband and two boys – Iain aged 13 and Donnie aged 8.

“We can’t have the heat on that much,” she says. “We’ve tried to be a bit more self-sufficient – we bought some chickens.”

Claire would like to see more financial help available.

“I don’t think working families are being provided for enough,” she says. “We’ve put so much into the bakery coming through Covid and we thought things would get better, but they’re getting worse.”

‘My savings keep going down and down’


Bett Hannah finds it a struggle to keep track of the rising costs

In Stranraer, Bett Hannah looks forward to the Food Train charity delivering her groceries every week.

“When you don’t get out, you have nobody,” she says. “Some days I can sit here and not see anyone, but it doesn’t bother me. They’re friendly and they make you feel comfortable.”

The 76-year-old finds it a struggle to keep track of the rising costs.

“You take it out of savings to cover what you spend, but you can’t put it back,” she says. “You don’t have the money to put it back, so that means your savings keep going down and down.”

Bett is shocked at the price of the basics. “It’s not the fancy stuff,” she says. “Bread has gone up, tomatoes are a terrible price, washing powder – you can’t do without it.

“You’ll settle for less to eat to compensate.”

Bett makes sure that nothing goes to waste.

“It used to be you said, ‘there’s some of it left, it doesn’t matter’. But you have to use it for something because it’s just so expensive.”

The pensioner says she doesn’t let things get her down.

“We’ve all come to a point where we’re going down anyway,” she says.

“You just have to take care of yourself. As long as I can stay fine and stay well – that’s me.”

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