Misinformation – Deep poverty is due to Conservative austerity policies and the new FM is powerless to change that

on the First Minister to tackle poverty. A study suggests the number of people living in what it calls ‘deep poverty’ has risen in the last 20 years.

The above is from Reporting Scotland today and all day no doubt.

I’m not doubting the importance of tackling deep poverty in Scotland and across the UK, but this call for the new FM to tackle it, headlined by Reporting Scotland, hides the key fact that the ability to do so lies almost entirely with the UK Government.

Deep poverty does not apply to the many working poor for whom Scotland’s more affordable housing and the unique child payment are making a difference.

Those in deep poverty are unemployed and dependent on the UK Government’s reserved Universal Credit and Housing Benefit. Conservative Government austerity policies are to blame for the increase in deep poverty.

The JRF is often very informed but the report on which the above is based is flawed.

This is the only reference to austerity in the 26 page report:

The pattern of poverty since the start of the 21st century in Scotland and the UK is, broadly, a tale of two decades. The start of the millennium saw falls in overall poverty, driven by falling poverty among pensioners and children. However, between 2010 and 2019 we have seen poverty in both Scotland and the rest of the UK rise. This was largely driven by austerity lowering the level of social security support available to the population


Understated and unattributed – very poor analysis.


2 thoughts on “Misinformation – Deep poverty is due to Conservative austerity policies and the new FM is powerless to change that

  1. ‘hides the key fact that the ability to do so lies almost entirely with the UK Government.’ Indeed it does!

    It is plain wrong for supposed erudite bodies to seek to equate the performance of (any) Holyrood (or other devolved) government in the UK with that of a Westminster government when it comes to relative achievement in addressing economic and social ills.

    Policy outcomes are linked to decisions made/options pursued and to inputs, activities and outputs generated and delivered over short, but especially medium and longer terms. Moreover, economic and social ills tend to be due to systemic rather than readily isolated single factors. The devolution settlements severely limit the powers and the agency of devolved governments relative to the powers and agency of Westminster.

    Scotland, Wales and NI hardly could be said to have fared better when governed directly by a Secretary of State in a Westminster government and his/her Whitehall department. Devolving powers has improved things to a degree but as the main blog post indicates, in many areas a FM of a devolved government can be powerless to effect change even though the change is what is wanted by the electorate selecting the devolved government.

    The SNP first came to power in Holyrood in 2007. As part of the UK, Scotland’s government in Edinburgh then experienced, with limited agency to respond, the following: (i) the 2008/9 financial crash; (ii) the Tories coming to power in 2010 in Westminster and remaining in power ever since – despited being consistently rejected by a majority of voters in Scotland; (iii) persistent, Tory-imposed austerity; (iv) initially the distraction of a Brexit campaign for which there was little or no demand in Scotland, then the success of Vote Leave in the EU referendum, but not in Scotland; (v) the uncertainty and then damage caused by the imposition of a ‘hard’ Brexit; (vi) a global pandemic; and now (vii) a cost of living crisis. It has not been an ‘easy’ period for devolved governments anywhere in the UK!

    All the above would be challenging for any government especially if it was one seeking to protect its population from the worst effects of these ‘events’. It would be challenging even for a government in possession of ALL the powers of an independent nation state. It’s not been an easy period for Westminster governments but by contrast with devolved governments, the party in power in Westminster caused and/or had possession of the powers to respond to the challenges that have arisen.

    Expecting a devolved government with much more limited powers and with restricted agency to achieve what Westminster could – or rather, SHOULD – have achieved to assist its citizens is, candidly, risible.


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