In 2010, Professor Danny Dorling then at Sheffield University, wrote:
[W]hen writing a book, The Widening Gap, with colleagues in 1999, which considered how, under both the Tories and the start of New Labour, the gap
between rich and poor continued to grow. We highlighted that New Labour explicitly continued Conservative spending policies for those two years and, once in office, did not enact the key policies to reduce inequalities that it had supported throughout opposition. That gap became a great deal wider in the years that followed.
In that same period, Scottish Labour MPs toed the line and did nothing to alleviate the crushing poverty in their constituencies. After devolution, still under the thumb of London, they did nothing and even famously returned £1.5 billion to Westminster rather than implement equal pay, build hospitals or improve public services.
In the last 12 years, though constrained by the devolution settlement, with major powers axed in the final days of negotiation, not by the Tories, but by Labour, SNP governments have achieved more than Labour has ever done.
In October 2019, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported:
- Following a great deal of work in advance of the Scottish Government’s announcement, including campaigning by a significant coalition of poverty-focused organisations in Scotland, we were pleased that the analysis and ideas in our first report had in many ways been reflected in the Scottish Government’s announcement. We believe the Scottish Child Payment could make a significant contribution to tackling child poverty in Scotland.
- Urgency and impact: Without question the Scottish Government has shown greater urgency in their proposals for the Scottish Child Payment, announcing initially that it would bring forward the initial payment to under-sixes to 2021 (over a year earlier than expected) and most recently, through the Scottish Government’s September 2019 Programme for Government, bringing forward the initial payment to before Christmas 2020.
- Ambition: The Scottish Government has made the decision to invest a large sum into the new Scottish Child Payment. Without question, its expected budget of £180 million is a significant level of funding, particularly at a time when public funding is under strain.
Also, in 2019, we heard:
More children and young people will benefit from a nutritious meal and a place to play this summer holiday. Charities and councils will increase support for children from low income families during the school holidays, backed by £350,000 from the Scottish Government.
People in crisis made more than 165,000 successful applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund in the last financial year, according to new statistics. The Fund paid out £35 million, including £10.4 million in Crisis Grants to people in financial emergency, such as those struggling on low incomes or benefits – a 14% increase on 2017-18. The money helped people with essentials such as food, heating costs and household items. A further £24.8 million in Community Care Grants helped those facing extreme financial pressures with one-off costs for purchases including beds, washing machines and cookers. The Scottish Welfare Fund is part of an annual package of over £125 million to mitigate against the impact of UK Government welfare cuts. Since its launch in April 2013, the Fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households, with a third of recipients being families with children.
By March 2020, we could see results:
From the data in the table above we can see that before and after housing costs are taken into account, Scotland has been able to keep the level of child poverty significantly lower than England or Wales.