Child Poverty

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th March 2019.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

It is clear that the First Minister shares my grave concern that Scottish Government and Resolution Foundation analysis confirms that the number of children living in poverty in Scotland is steadily rising. It is clear that she also shares my anger and frustration that that worrying rise is, in the words of the senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation

“almost entirely driven by UK-wide decisions”.

While we continue to call for an end to the mean-spirited, punitive welfare policies of the United Kingdom Government, it is clear that the Scottish Government must do all that it can to raise the living standards of our poorest families. Is the First Minister really saying that low-income families in Scotland will have to wait until 2022 before the Scottish Government introduces a desperately needed income supplement?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I agree with Alison Johnstone’s sentiments. As we have said, by June this year we will set out an update on the work, which will be available for Parliament as a whole to scrutinise and debate. That will be published alongside our analysis of policy and delivery options. Those are important aspects—considering the delivery options as well as how we pay for the policy is a vital part of making sure that the policy can be delivered properly.

There are two principles driving our work: reaching the greatest number of children in poverty, and topping up income sufficiently to lift those households out of poverty. I have a lot of sympathy for the organisations behind the give me five campaign. However, £7 out of every £10 would be spent on families who are not living in poverty. If we are to do this, which we are committed to doing, we must make sure that the money gets to those who are most in need.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

Living up to the targets that the Parliament unanimously supported in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 must be a priority, so we need to use every tool that we have at our disposal. The Resolution Foundation’s report on child poverty says:

“It is also possible that replacing the current regressive system of council tax, as cross-party talks are set to discuss, could help reduce child poverty, if done right.”

Will the First Minister commit to ensuring that our local and national tax systems are significantly more progressive, to allow us to raise the money that we need to fight child poverty in Scotland?

The First Minister:

We are already raising extra revenue through a more progressive income tax system, which the Greens have welcomed, even if not every party in the chamber has done. As Alison Johnstone has said, we have committed to cross-party talks on the reform of council tax, and I hope that all parties will agree to take part in those talks. Putting the progressive principle at the heart of the system should be a priority and objective for all of us.