Scotland’s political parties must unite to eradicate poverty, social justice secretary Shona Robison has said.
A new national mission to end poverty will be announced on Tuesday during a Holyrood debate, which will include calls for the devolution of employment powers to the Scottish Parliament.
Powers over employment, the Scottish Government has said, would allow for the introduction of a real living wage.
Ahead of the debate, Robison said: “It is time for us to work together to eradicate poverty in Scotland.
“While the pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the hardships faced by many in this country, it has also shown that we can make change happen at the pace and scale required for this new national mission.”
She added: “Now we must redouble our efforts, working across government, parliament and society to build a fairer, more equal Scotland where everyone has enough food to eat, a warm, safe home that meets their needs and the means to give their children the best start in life.”
In response to a letter from Robison calling for more powers over the weekend, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said the Scottish Government should focus on implementing the powers it already has.
“Your new role as cabinet secretary for social justice means you are responsible for introducing the 11 new benefit payments devolved by the UK Conservative Government through the 2016 Scotland Act,” he said.
“The SNP Government promised to set up those benefits by 2021. You have broken that promise.
“It will be 2024 before those powers are used for the first time – approaching a decade after they were devolved.”
He added: “If I was in your privileged position to deliver real change here right now, I would be embarrassed to pen a letter requesting more responsibility when your party and government have proven completely incapable of introducing new powers for Scotland.
“Instead of demanding something else to distract from your failure, I suggest you at least try to use the powers that you already have first.”
Labour social justice spokeswoman, Pam Duncan-Glancy, also pushed for the Scottish Government to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to address the issue, saying in a letter to Robison that the Scottish Government should work “hard and fast” to alleviate the strain on families.
In a briefing sent to Robison, the party outlined a number of options to address poverty including a ban on public sector contracts being awarded to companies that offer zero hour contracts or pay below the living wage, bringing forward the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week and increasing the social house building target.
Duncan-Glancy added: “Where you use all the powers of this parliament available to you to reduce poverty and inequality, our party will work with you.”
She also said that Labour supports the devolution of employment law, but would want to see a consultation with workers beforehand.
Scottish Greens social security spokeswoman, Maggie Chapman, said targets on child poverty in Scotland were due to be missed before the pandemic, adding: “There was cross-party agreement during the recent election campaign that the Scottish Child Payment should be doubled.
“All parties agreed that tackling child poverty was a priority. And it is good to see that we are finally getting to a radical approach to tackling child poverty across the public sector and beyond.
“By taking this approach, we can minimise child poverty and identify further powers we need to stop Westminster condemning children to living in poverty.
“Westminster’s failures should not be a cover for us not doing what we can – but we know what we need is more powers to address child poverty fully.”
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