It is unacceptable in a country as prosperous as Scotland that people are still living in poverty and I want to do all that I can to create a fairer, more equal Scotland for everyone.
In 2014-15 a total of 940,000 people were living in poverty in Scotland, including one in five children; and two thirds of those children in poverty were living in a household where someone was in work.
Poverty is not inevitable. And this government is committed to do all we can to eradicate it.
In a debate in the Scottish Parliament today I will outline the action we will take to tackle poverty and inequalities and create equality of opportunity for all our people.
Our focus is on tackling the root causes of poverty and deprivation. I recently launched our Fairer Scotland Action Plan which features 50 concrete actions that the Scottish Government will take during this parliamentary term to achieve our ambition for a fair, smart, inclusive Scotland by 2030
The plan includes a range of action to tackle the ‘poverty premium’ – where people on low incomes have to pay more for basic goods and services – like gas and electricity, telecoms, and financial services – than better off families. And this autumn, I will convene a summit with energy providers making sure customers on low incomes get a better deal.
We’ll also develop a Financial Health Check service for people on low incomes and older people to help them make the most of their money.
The action plan is backed up by a £29 million programme, including £12.5 million from the European Social Fund, for communities and the third sector to design, test and deliver new approaches to tackling poverty and improving lives.
And for the first time anywhere in the UK, the Fairer Scotland Action Plan commits the Scottish Government, councils and other public bodies to a Socio-Economic Duty. This means that they will have a duty to assess the impact that a certain policy or service change will have on tackling poverty.
Another major plank in the plan is ending child poverty.
Poverty for anyone – whether they have children or not, whether they are young or old – means waking up every day facing insecurity, uncertainty and impossible decisions about money. But poverty for children can have effects that last a lifetime and that is why it is so important to act now.
We’re taking a range of actions to do just that – from increasing childcare provision, tackling the poverty premium, delivering on the baby box of essential basic supplies, and addressing the attainment gap.
We will also bring forward a Child Poverty Bill next year and have committed to ambitious new 2030 targets to eradicate child poverty.
It will take all of Scotland to work together to achieve our aims, but this will be worth it for all of us. Success means we will all benefit, because a fairer country is good for everyone.
We know that it won’t be easy and we are being ambitious in our aims. But if we are not ambitious about tackling poverty and inequalities, then what kind of country are we?
Angela Constance is the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities. This article originally appeared in the Scotsman.