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More children in Scotland are living in poverty


HOLYROOD ministers were yesterday struggling to defend their social justice policy after an independent report found that the number of Scots children living in poverty had increased.

The report from the Child Poverty Action Group, the Scottish Poverty Information Unit and the Open University says that almost one in three children north of the border lives in a low-income household .

It also claims that attempts by the Scottish Executive and the Government to combat child poverty has “stalled” and that about a quarter of Scotland’s population is living in poverty, above the UK average.

John Swinney, the Scottish National Party leader, said that the figures were a “damning indictment” of the Scottish Executive and a cause for national shame.

The report, Poverty in Scotland, says that in 1999/2000, 29 per cent of Scots children were living in households where the income was below 60 per cent of the median national earning figure. This is the threshold that defines the poverty line.

Last year that had risen to 32 per cent of families under the 50 per cent threshold and 30 per cent under the 60 per cent threshold. This means that 300,000 children under 16 were living in poverty.

Perhaps the most embarrassing finding from the report for ministers is the assertion that the efforts to reduce poverty in Scotland have stalled and that Scotland compares badly to the rest of the UK. The report also says that lone parents in Scotland are twice as likely to be poor than couples with children and that the weekly income of a Scottish lone parent household was £204 — some £12 less than the UK average The report’s authors criticised both the UK Government and the Executive for failing to tackle inequality and relying too heavily on job creation to ease poverty.

Danny Phillips, the head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said families nearest the poverty line had benefited from government policies. However, he added, many people still found themselves alternating between low pay and no pay.

“It is simply unacceptable that in a rich nation such as Scotland so many children go without and enter the cycle of poverty into adulthood", he said.

Mr Swinney said that the figures were a damning indictment of Labour's failure. He added: “For child poverty to be rising in a country with such natural resources as Scotland should be a cause of national shame.”

Mr Swinney said ministers had allowed more children to fall into poverty while all the time they “spouted” the language of social justice.

The Executive last night reacted cautiously to the report with a spokeswoman saying they welcomed it as an important contribution to the debate on how Scotland could close the opportunity gap.

She added: "We particularly welcome the report's support of our drive to defeat child poverty in a generation. We recognise that this will not be easy — but we have already made important strides in achieving this goal.”

From November 5, 2002