Adam Tomkins MSP

Con­ser­va­tive (Glas­gow Re­gion)

Rutherglen Reformer - - News From The Pews -

Which is more im­por­tant: mea­sur­ing child poverty or tak­ing steps to re­duce it?

Since the last Scot­tish par­lia­men­tary elec­tion 12 months ago Holy­rood has made very lit­tle law but a trickle of leg­is­la­tion is now start­ing to emerge from the SNP gov­ern­ment.

MSPs will soon de­bate a new Child Poverty Bill but, un­less it is sub­stan­tially amended, we may as well not bother.

Be­cause, if it is passed in its cur­rent form, it will achieve next to noth­ing.

It pro­claims child poverty in Scot­land is to be re­duced be­tween now and 2030, but it says noth­ing about how this should be done.

It talks of de­liv­ery plans, tar­gets and an­nual progress re­ports, but un­less ac­com­pa­nied by con­crete ac­tion on the ground, none of this will make any dif­fer­ence in prac­tice.

Only the SNP could in­tro­duce a Child Poverty Bill that will do noth­ing to lift any child in Scot­land out of poverty.

There is hope, how­ever. The SNP run a mi­nor­ity ad­min­is­tra­tion in Holy­rood and it could be that a cross-party con­sen­sus of op­po­si­tion MSPs can amend the leg­is­la­tion as it pro­ceeds through par­lia­ment, so that by the time it be­comes law, it might be worth the pa­per it’s writ­ten on.

That’s what the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives will be seek­ing to achieve.

Let me give two ex­am­ples.

We know a lot about the un­der­ly­ing driv­ers of poverty.

We know, for ex­am­ple, that ad­dic­tion prob­lems, fam­ily break­down, un­em­ploy­ment and ed­u­ca­tional un­der-at­tain­ment are among the main causes of poverty.

Bizarrely, the SNP would pre­fer their Child Poverty Bill to re­main silent on all th­ese mat­ters. But that’s not good enough.

The First Min­is­ter has said that she wants to be judged on her record in ed­u­ca­tion, and that clos­ing the at­tain­ment gap is her top pri­or­ity.

So let us amend the bill so that it re­quires Scot­tish min­is­ters to take steps to close the at­tain­ment gap and to re­port an­nu­ally to par­lia­ment on the ef­fect that their measures are hav­ing.

In other words, let’s turn the SNP’s words into bind­ing ac­tion.

Like­wise, with un­em­ploy­ment. Lets in­sist as a mat­ter of law that the Scot­tish min­is­ters have a duty to en­sure that, each year in Scot­land, fewer chil­dren grow up in work­less house­holds.

We all know that, for those who can, work is the best route out of poverty. So let’s add some sharp teeth to an oth­er­wise limp Child Poverty Bill to make sure that hap­pens.

The SNP are right to leg­is­late on child poverty. All par­ties in Holy­rood will, I’m sure, sup­port the new bill.

But if we are se­ri­ous in our as­pi­ra­tion to erad­i­cate child poverty in Scot­land, we are go­ing to need much stronger leg­is­la­tion than the SNP are of­fer­ing.

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