The focus, resources and tools to end child poverty are one of the “big prizes” of independence, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The Deputy First Minister was setting out her vision of how independence would allow the building of “a country where child poverty belongs in the past” in a speech for the End Child Poverty Coalition.
However, Ms Sturgeon also warned that progressing on the current course, and leaving Scotland unable to influence policies in areas like welfare, risked making the problem worse and pushing more than 50,000 children into child poverty by 2020.
Speaking at the event held at the National Museum of Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said:
“The Scottish Government will, between now and the referendum next year, set out what we believe to be a compelling case for a ‘yes’ vote in the independence referendum. As an independent country, we will continue to work closely and constructively with our neighbours across these islands – but we will also hold in our own hands the powers that will equip us to build and shape the kind of society we want to be.”
The Deputy First Minister said that the Scottish government currently possessed some of the tools that would allow them to mitigate against some of the consequences of child poverty, but insisted that in order to deliver long lasting change, the levers currently reserved to Westminster needed to be returned to Scottish hands.
“Applying our minds and our energies to tackling the scandal of child poverty, with access to all of our resources and control of the policy levers that matter is for me one of the big prizes of independence. It will take time, of course, and no one is suggesting it will be easy.
“But the solutions will lie in our own hands. And when the alternative is, at best, more of the same from a system that has failed for generations, how can we pass up the opportunity?
“I believe as a people we want to build a stronger welfare state, not dismantle a social security system we should all be able to rely on in time of need.
“I believe we want to build a country where child poverty belongs in the past, not sit on the sidelines while policies we don’t support make the problem even worse.
“While we are doing all we can with the current powers available, projections made by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest that by 2020 child poverty in Scotland will rise by more than 50,000.
“But with access to our own resources and the ability to join up policy across devolved and reserved areas, we could make a substantial difference. Indeed in the long term, we could end child poverty altogether.
“In setting about that task we can be confident of the resources and wealth we have in this country.
“In an independent Scotland, we can take decisions about welfare that will ensure fair and decent support for people. We can create a system that will encourage into jobs those who can – and should – work, but also support people who are unable to work, allowing them to play a full and active part in society, and help to tackle poverty where it exists.
“Our efforts to tackle unemployment can be hindered at the moment, not just by our lack of fiscal powers, but also by the disjoint between what is funded at the UK level by DWP and our own employability services. Independence offers the opportunity for better alignment of services and opportunities to develop more integrated models of early intervention.”