The impoverished soul of Tom Gordon

From Tom Gordon, in the Herald today:

Nicola Sturgeon will today promise to make ending child poverty “a national mission” if the SNP is re-elected in May, partly by doubling the Scottish to-up benefit for low income families. The First Minister, who made closing the educational attainment gap her mission in the last parliament and failed, will make the election promise at a virtual campaign conference.

How’s that for reptilian venom? ‘AND FAILED! Reflect for a moment on his reasoning here and the underlying playground mentality.

Before we get on to child poverty, let’s deal with the attainment gap facts. From our good friend and occasional contributor to TuS, Leah Gunn Barrett:

The Scottish Government has halved the gap between children from the most and least deprived communities since 2009/10. More pupils are leaving school with passes at Higher Level of better, and more from both backgrounds are heading to positive destinations.[1]  In August, the BBC reported that the learning gap between England’s richest and poorest students widened for the first time since 2007, whereas Scotland reported improvements in literacy.[2] As for higher education, because it believes in the ability to learn not the ability to pay, the Scottish Government abolished tuition fees in 2008 while Labour introduced them in 1998. 

Schools don’t operate in a vacuum, but within the wider context of society, which under the Tories has grown increasingly unequal. In order to build a fairer society, Scotland must first break from a Union that has stolen our wealth and suppressed our potential for too long. It’s too bad Scottish Labour doesn’t understand this. 

Now on child poverty, and strangely missing from Gordon’s wee piece:

From the Scottish Government in March 2020, a report on the most damaging form of poverty:

‘Persistent poverty identifies individuals who live in relative poverty for three or more of the last four years. It therefore identifies people who have been living in poverty for a significant period of time, which is more damaging than brief periods spent with a low income. The impacts can affect an individual throughout their lifetime.’

Regrettably, for all groups other than children, persistent poverty is as common in Scotland as it is in England and Wales but more common than in Northern Ireland. However: ‘Children have consistently had a higher risk of living in persistent poverty after housing costs than working-age adults and pensioners in Scotland.’

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.


While with full autonomy, we’d all expect poverty to be eradicated in Scotland, some credit must go to the Scottish Government for its efforts to reduce the impact of Tory austerity cuts. Here’s a reminder of those efforts and the recognition they’ve had:

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.

Though the 2020 report from End Child Poverty shows that Glasgow does have one of the ‘top’ parliamentary constituencies for child poverty, before taking account of housing costs, Scotland has no entries at all when housing costs, as they would be in actuality, are considered:


Why is the situation regarding child poverty a bit better here?

In 2018, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation had this to say about the Scottish Government’s intentions to reduce child poverty:

‘The Scottish Government’s commitment to building a social security system that has dignity and respect at its core and offering routes into employment for those currently excluded from the labour market, could change the family incomes and prospects of thousands of children for the better.’

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 1: Less vulnerable to benefits cuts

‘The IFS found that low-income families in Scotland currently have a higher proportion of their income coming from earnings than low-income families in some (but not all) parts of the UK, so have a lower proportion of income that is vulnerable to benefit cuts compared with some of the hardest-hit regions of the UK.’ (Hood and Waters,2017). 2

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 2: Fewer large families

‘In addition, one key change to UK benefit policy – the two-child limit on tax credits and Universal Credit– will particularly hit families with three or more children born after 6 April 2017. The IFS analysis found that Scotland has proportionally fewer families with three or more children than elsewhere in the UK, and around half the proportions found in Northern Ireland and the West Midlands.’ (Hood and Waters, 2017). 3

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 3 and 4: Higher increases in median income and less relative poverty

Note: The predicted dramatic increases above neglect impact of further welfare devolution to SNP Government:

‘Many of the key drivers of changes in poverty have been felt UK-wide. However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has supported some research that showed a clear rise in Scottish median incomes relative to the rest of the UK from around 2003/04 and a relatively bigger improvement in the relative poverty rate from 2004/05.’ (Bailey, 2014).

Persistent poverty refers to children who have been living in relative poverty in three out of the last four years – a measure of the number of children who have been in poverty for a prolonged period of time.

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 5 and 6: Stronger decreases in poverty rates and increases in employment

‘The research identified strong decreases in poverty rates for the working-age population compared with the rest of the UK, alongside improving employment rates, especially for families without children. Over the period from 2000/04 to 2008/12, Scotland saw a bigger reduction in out-of-work families compared with the rest of the UK and similar growth as the rest of the UK in ‘intermediate work intensity’ (‘partly working’ families). 8

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 7 and 8: Affordable rents and mortgage costs

‘The analysis also pointed to more affordable rent and mortgage costs relative to income than in England, with social rents being 20–25% lower in Scotland by 2012/13. As a result, poverty after housing costs, compared with before housing costs, rose by a smaller amount than in England.’ 8

SNP Government Initiatives

‘In the coming months, the Scottish Government will launch two strategies that could make a crucial difference for our society. The first is an action plan on halving the disability employment gap, and the second is an action plan on the gender pay gap that is due to be published by the end of the year. This could be transformational for tackling poverty.’ 9

TODAY, we hear of the ongoing commitment of the SNP government, despite the Westminster constraints, to go beyond words and to act:

‘Vulnerable families are set to benefit from new funding to support households in financial hardship. Seven projects aimed at tackling child poverty will receive a total of £450,000. The money is a part of the ‘Every Child, Every Chance’ Innovation Fund, which is jointly supported by the Scottish Government and The Hunter Foundation. The fund aims to support innovative approaches which could have an impact on reducing child poverty by 2030. The projects range from job training and a befriending service, to school-based mentoring and support for lone parents. One of the successful projects is Stepwell, a social business based in Inverclyde, which provides support to people in the local community with health and finance issues as well as training and employment opportunities.’

Feel free, Tom, to use this in your next piece.


11 thoughts on “The impoverished soul of Tom Gordon

  1. The £10 a week payment to children of low income families will erode child poverty in Scotland. Eradicate it,

    Giving women who co habit (the majority) equal rights with other women will alleviate poverty and abuse in Scotland. Women who co habit have to make a claim (1/3?) within a year and it can cost £thousands in legal fees. There is little legal aid. It has to be paid back in any case. Women can lose their house, their home. They have no where to go. They have to stay is abusive unhealthy relationships. Affecting children.and poverty. It has been changed in England women now get legal aid (it has to be paid back in many cases). They do not lose their home. The roof over their head.

    Letting agencies illegally (solicitors) demand 6 moths + deposit upfront rent. Even from women with good credit and funds,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In its February 2018 report on University Applications UCAS analysed the applications from all 4 nations over a 12 year period, 2006-18, using the POLAR3 measure of deprivation.

    For Scotland the results showed that the gap between the most advantaged and least advantaged applicants had halved and that had been due to the increase in applications from the most disadvantaged applicants.

    In 2006 the ratio of applications from the most advantaged compared to the most disadvantaged was 4.5 to 1. By 2018 that had narrowed to 2.6 to 1 and as UCAS noted that narrowing was down to the increase in applications from the most disadvantaged applicants. In 2006 applications from the most disadvantaged applicants from Scotlandwas just under 10% of the total. By 2018 it had risen to 18%.

    Note: UCAS processes two thirds of Scottish applications for University. The remaining third use routes within Scotland eg direct entry from FE College etc.


  3. Taking into account the 20/25% of mature students. There is no attainment gap in Scotland. Only opportunities. Life long learning Scotland has one of the highest university educated in the world (pro rata). 50%. Only Canada is higher 56%

    More universities (pro rata) 15 pop – 5.5Million. Colleges and apprenticeships.

    30% go to university from School. 20/25% mature students. If the 15% EU students are not included in mature students. Most likely. 70% university take up + foreign students (pay full). The highest in the world. Scotland has the best education system in the world. By far.

    There is a need to keep the class sizes down. Councils (unionists) poor management and allocation. The Council bad organisation keeps class sizes up. At local level. There are class room assistants to help. Councils use the statuary class room limit (30) to keep class sizes higher. Reduce the limit.The councils would have to comply. The average class size overall is 13. Different places and areas. Teacher are more qualified and get paid more than the average.

    The education system could be even better. If Scotland did not have to pay for Westminster illegal wars, tax evasion, financial fraud. Hickley Point, HS2, Trident, redundant weaponry. Repayments on loans not borrowed or spent in Scotland. The illegal Barnett Formula.


  4. Two other articles in the Herald today are worth noting and fall within the context of this article.
    1. KPMG have said Scotland’s recovery from Covid is likely to outstrip that of the UK’s in terms of increase in GDP.
    2. Tories think SG should apologise for missing its target in 2020-21 for apprenticeships. Target was 30,000 apparently. But the SG met its target ofv29,000 apprenticeships in 2019-20. I think we can cut the SG some slack for 2020-21 don’t you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is evidence that the Tory government was missing its own apprenticeship target even before the pandemic i.e. in ‘normal times’! See this from the online publication ‘People Management’ from 27 Jun 2019.


      Headline: ‘Government admits apprenticeship target will be missed – Education secretary says manifesto pledge of 3 million new starts by 2020 is now out of reach’

      The article explains that education secretary Damian Hinds ‘reluctantly made the admission during an evidence session in front of MPs in which he was repeatedly asked for an answer on whether the government was set to reach its goal.

      ‘Speaking in front of the commons education select committee yesterday, Hinds was repeatedly pushed by Conservative MP and committee chair Robert Halfon on the question, “Is the 3 million target still on for 2020, yes or no?”, with Halfon repeating, “Why don’t you just give me an answer?”.’

      ‘The government introduced the target before it brought in the apprenticeship levy system in 2017. The new scheme has by plagued by low uptake and complaints from businesses around the flexibility of the system.’

      It adds: ‘The veracity of the target has previously been brought into question, notably by a 2018 House of Lords report which said it “prioritised quantity over quality” and claimed there was a lack of “clear accountability for the delivery and quality of apprenticeships”.’

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “KPMG have said Scotland’s recovery from Covid is likely to outstrip that of the UK’s in terms of increase in GDP.”

      Thanks for the alert on this. I don’t read The Herald so don’t know how the story was framed. Going back to source, it’s a positive outlook. The big question is whether it will be covered by Reporting Scotland!


      KPMG states: ‘Scotland’s economy could completely regain lost ground within the next two years and outpace the UK-wide average ‘.

      ‘KPMG estimated the country’s economy took a 9.6% hit in 2020, broadly in-line with forecasts, as the pandemic impacted almost every sector. Across the UK, there was a drop in GDP of 9.9%.

      ‘But the latest best-case analysis from the firm suggests that a continuing successful vaccine rollout and a potential post-restrictions ‘consumer bounce’ could result in Scotland witnessing annual GDP growth in 2021 of up to 5.5%, compared to 4.6% UK-wide, and up to 5.8% in 2022, compared with 5.6% across the UK.’

      This next section of the statement reveals that of the firm’s ‘concerns’ about Scotland’s recovery, two are not under the control of the Scottish Government and Parliament! Note the concerns over employment due to long term effects of Brexit.

      ‘While the data offers some real hope and optimism for Scotland’s prospects of a post-Covid economic recovery, there remains concerns that unemployment may rise significantly towards the end of 2021, driven by the long-term effects of Brexit and the winding down of government support measures, including the furlough schemes.’

      And this is positive on the resilience of Scotland’s high value adding sectors: ‘While the country’s already flourishing tech, biotech and medical industries have continued to grow and attract international investment, there’s no escaping from the devastation that Covid has created in hospitality, retail and travel and tourism.’

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Warp speed deflectors on, Scotty, we are entering Election hyperspace”.

    “The engines wul no take it, Captain Gordon. Thurs too muny warped-lies ah tell ye. Too muny warp-lies fur the engines tae function”!

    “Doesnt matter Scotty. We have to deflect at all costs, the Cling-on Generalisimo DRossy insists all Empire2 vessels adhere to the command of God-King Boris, or the SECRET subsidy will disappear–and POOF, we will be stuck in the BLACK HOLE of independence!”


  6. The SNP Gov has allocated £250Million to increased drug/drink addiction services. There is a need to an increased total abstinence, ‘one chance’ rehabilitation services. To reduce poverty. The Councils social care put people on methadone for years. This leads to bad health and early deaths.

    They calculate that 1 in ten go into recovery. (Dubious figures). Even if reliable that is 10%. 10% less funding costs in SNHS, Police, social care, fire costs. Amounts to £Billions. 10% less early deaths and more healthier people. Of the 1 in twenty addicts. Or people with addiction problems.

    There is a need for more (one chance) total abstinence proper counselling rehab facilities. The facilities pay for themselves and save monies. The Councils still persist in putting people on methadone for years, keeping people unhealthy and leading to premature early death. Uncaring. A total false economy costing more. For a few £thousand people can get well and lead better lives.

    It should be kept under the SNHS so Drs can refer people. Or it has to be paid for privately. There are now not enough total abstinence proper counselling rehab facilities for people to go to get better. This would relieve poverty.


  7. The ones (retired) in poverty are elderly women. Women outlive men five years (worldwide). Women who worked part time. 70/80’s but had no pension rights. Part time workers had no pension rights. They had to work full time. Cherie Blair took on the retrospective case to deny these women pension rights and won. Denying women. (Feminist?). The UK Gov advise was for (married) women to pay the lower NI contribution stamp. Although everyone gets a state pension. It is the lower in Europe.

    If the state pension was increased. There would be less needs for additional benefits. The savings in administration costs would pay for it. Pensioners would be better off. The administration pension costs are nearly as much as the payout. Scottish funds pay for the (UK) pensions/welfare benefits. Comes from the £63Billion raise in Scotland.

    Students are the group in relative poverty for a limited period. 4 years and quite low nos overall. They recover over a life time. A Degree increases income over a life time.


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