This is not a normal election. This is a pandemic election. Scotland’s deepest inequalities have been laid bare, and lessons of unity and pulling together have rung out. That is why this election I’m offering solutions not only for recovery from Covid-19, but also for the kind of future society I want to build – one where no one is excluded from reaching their potential. It will take deep structural changes to eradicate poverty, and that work should start on day one of the next parliament.
I’m continuously frustrated by serious issues of poverty being sidelined by the old arguments of division. My National Recovery Plan speaks to everyone in Scotland – not just the 50% that the SNP and the Tories want to speak to.
Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated deep inequalities, but on the watch of SNP and Conservative governments, these have been growing in Scotland for years. More than one in four of Scotland’s children live in poverty, and more than two-thirds of those children live in working households. Half of families in poverty have a member who is a disabled person. The proportion of Scottish pensioners stuck in persistent poverty has increased under the SNP and is now higher than levels elsewhere in the UK. And amidst these harrowing statistics, the SNP twice delayed taking over control of benefits, choosing instead to leave them the responsibility of the punitive UK Government and DWP.
My National Recovery Plan includes five different areas for recovery – our economy, the NHS and social care, an education comeback, our communities, and our climate. Tackling poverty is woven through them all, to catch and address all of the root causes of poverty.
To protect those facing economic inequality, we would seek to guarantee a Minimum Income Standard that no one would fall below. The social security system should be simple to use, easy to access and automated where possible, and actively reach all those entitled to benefits.
We support measures to increase the Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week by the end of 2022 to lift more children out of poverty. And to support older generations we will establish a Staying Connected fund which will offer grants to either cover the costs of their TV licence or go towards internet and connectivity bills.
There should be more effort made on eliminating poverty for women, disabled people, and diverse minority communities, so Scottish Labour will mainstream this into anti-poverty strategies, as well as developing a Disability Poverty Target.
If over their 14 years in power the SNP had been as obsessed with ending child poverty as they are with independence, where could we be as a nation? Scotland truly deserves a better government and a better opposition.
The next five years must focus on a national recovery for a stronger and fairer Scotland. Scottish Labour is the only party committed to that without distraction. If you want to make a difference too, then use both votes for Scottish Labour this election.