Scotland’s political leaders are being challenged to set out how they will meet targets to cut child poverty, as one expert insisted it is clear current action “is not enough”.
John McKendrick, a professor of social justice at Glasgow Caledonian University, was speaking as a new report he was lead editor for was published.
It reveals in “stark terms the scale of poverty” in Scotland – with more than one million people suffering.
The Poverty in Scotland 2021 report adds 240,000 children – one in four youngsters – are living in poverty.
It warned the Covid-19 crisis has “exacerbated levels of poverty” and fundamental change is needed to address the problem, “including the more ambitious use of Scotland’s tax powers”.
The report was produced by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, the Poverty Alliance, and academics from Glasgow Caledonian and Heriot-Watt universities.
All parties at Holyrood have backed legislation to ensure less than 18% of children are living in poverty by 2023-24, and 10% by the end of the decade.
To achieve that target, the report urges politicians to be “more ambitious” when using Scotland’s tax powers.
It also calls for links between spending decisions in the Scottish budget and their impact on poverty to be clearer.
Further recommendations include a call for politicians to focus more on improving pay and job security, especially for young people, women and black and ethnic minority workers.
The report demands that the Scottish Child Payment, which is given to low-income families, is doubled to £20 a week – a move the SNP and some other parties have already committed to.
CPAG Scotland director John Dickie said: “With less than two weeks until the election, this report sets out in stark terms the scale of poverty that still exits across Scotland, but also contains a range of positive solutions that we urge all those elected to the new Parliament to act on.
“All the Holyrood parties committed to ensure that fewer than 18% of our children are living in poverty by 2024, and that less than one in 10 of our children are living in poverty by 2030.
“With one in four children still in poverty, the challenge to them now is to tell us how they will meet that target. Struggling families deserve nothing less.”
Prof McKendrick added: “The last Parliament made an historic commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2030. The next government must build on the foundation that has been laid and extend the actions that have already been introduced to deliver on this commitment.
“The evidence is unequivocal – what we are currently doing is not enough. Scotland’s children now need bold and ambitious action to deliver on promise and aspiration.
“If our prospective politicians are not able to deliver a programme for government that would eradicate poverty, then they are not the ones that Scotland needs.”
Linda Craik, an activist with direct experience of poverty, said there are “many issues and stumbling blocks that currently trap people in poverty in Scotland”.
She added: “As a member of End Poverty Edinburgh, a group of citizens formed to raise awareness of poverty to hold the city to account, it is crucial that the voices of people with lived experience of poverty are at the heart of policy decision making.
“It is only through the sharing of our experiences and our direct involvement in the decisions that affect us that we can stem rising poverty.”