Shocking child poverty figures revealed

New figures published this week have revealed the extent of child poverty across Scotland.

The figures, released by the Campaign to End Child Poverty show that in almost every council area of Scotland, there are wards where over 20% of children live in poverty. 

The City of Edinburgh Council area as a whole was slightly below this figure on 18%, as were Midlothian and West Lothian while East Lothian performed slightly better on 14%.

However, campaigners have pointed to the high level of disparity between different areas.  For example, in areas like Sighthill and Gorgie as many as one in three young people are living in poverty while more affluent areas like the Meadows and Morningside have a rate of 5%.

The most concerning aspect of the figures is the warning that the campaign gives for the years to come as the effects of welfare reform and austerity continue.  Recent forecasts have estimated that at least 65,000 more children in Scotland will be living below the breadline by the end of the decade.

The levels of child poverty that these figures reveal is a scandal and reflects on the wider implications of the current financial climate where more people are out of work and those who are in work are facing real terms cuts in wages.

Against this backdrop, the actions of the Scottish Government have the potential to act as a buffer protecting people from the worst of the cuts.  Unfortunately however, I am concerned that the choices of the current Government are making matters worse.

The cuts to local government budgets is impacting on the services which people rely on and has cost 25,000 people their jobs since 2008.  At the same time, college budgets are being slashed costing more jobs, reducing course options and reducing the number of students.  This in turn is limiting the opportunities for people to access skills and training that could help them to access jobs.

The Scottish Government believes that child poverty statistics underline the need for independence so that we can tackle poverty.  Unfortunately this is all too typical a response.  Rather than using the troubles of everyday Scots to make their case for separation, the Scottish Government should be using the considerable powers at their discretion to protect people from the worst of the austerity measures imposed by the coalition.