One of the most under-reported success stories in British politics is the Scottish Child Payment (SCP). The policy was implemented by the Scottish government on 15 February 2021 in an attempt to reverse increasing child-poverty figures. Despite analysis of statistics by respected institutions (like the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussel Trust, for example), indicating the policy has been extremely successful in its aim, there has been scant dissemination of the findings on mainstream media.
I became aware of the remarkable findings when a family friend wrote her final year dissertation on the correlation between reduced food bank uptake in Scotland with the SCP. I knew of the policy at this point, but had no idea that the SCP had resulted in such positive outcomes for those in need in Scotland. A little research helped me understand why this was the case.
Media silence on Scottish Child Payment benefits
An internet search on the subject will provide links to several pages of information from the Scottish government, dozens of articles from think tanks and two or three articles form the BBC on the implementation of the policy. The National newspaper is the only mainstream media source with several articles based on the positive outcomes of the SCP.
The stubborn refusal of UK media sources to recognise the benefits is all the more remarkable since the Oxford University academic Professor Danny Dorling claimed that the SCP has caused the biggest fall in child poverty in any country in Europe for 40 years. He also writes that the Scottish government policy is a template that the rest of the UK should follow if the UK government is serious about tackling inequality and destitution.
The SCP is a fixed weekly sum of money per child, paid to parents who already receive other benefits, with no limit on the number of children in the family. What the statistics show is that since the implementation of the policy, rates of poverty and the need for emergency food parcels have increased at a significantly lower rate compared to the other nations in the UK.
Good outcomes from Scottish Child Payment but not enough
The Scottish government, to its credit, is exemplifying what can be done to alleviate suffering for the most vulnerable in society within the constraints of a fixed budget economy. Through this they reflect the wishes and the priorities of the Scottish electorate. As Dorling states in the article above, both the incumbent Conservative party and the opposition, at the UK level, have indicated they will not replicate the policy that in the Scottish parliament, maintains cross-party support.
However, there is no room for complacency in Scotland. Poverty and food bank uptake are increasing here, despite the support of the SCP. Thecost of living crisis and the associated price hikes have outpaced the remuneration of the policy and the Scottish government’s room for fiscal manoeuvre. Without a volte face by the UK government and a cash injection to allow it, an increase in the SCP would mean reducing the budgets of other areas in the public sector.
The private sector should not be relied on to pick up this tab. The fact that groups like the Trussel Trust have to step-in to avoid people starving is either an illustration of abject failure of government, or an indication of some form of deliberate social engineering. Neither of these options is palatable to Scottish voters, no fans of the majority view of the UK electorate. It will be 70 years next year since Scots last voted for a conservative government. As a currency user, funded by this elected UK treasury, the Scottish government is doing all it can without the powers of currency sovereignty that could be gained through independence.
A positive vision
With this sovereignty, the Scottish public sector could, if the electorate desired it, create a list of universal basic services, governed and supplied at the local level, that would be guaranteed to every citizen. A standard-of-living assurance that is written into the constitution providing a minimum adequate standard of housing, healthcare, work, education, transport, food, water, and sanitation that could be developed and improved as technology allowed. Poverty and destitution are a political choice in a country as rich in resources as Scotland, never mind one with the vast wealth of the UK. As British citizens we should aspire to better than the status quo.
This would leave the private sector in its proper subsidiary position. It should serve to provide comfort, luxury, art, creativity, and innovation, and provide choice and discretionary products to allow an expression of individual taste and perception of beauty. Ideas can be developed, whether practical technology or philosophical thought, to advance the local community and wider society.
To ensure a homogeneity of ideas and practices we should all be involved in production in both sectors. The collaborative effort to provide the services a local community relies on would embed the individual. This builds respect both inwardly and towards others, and a pride in the local area. The various interpersonal relationships through close cooperation should allow a constant exchange of the evolution of ideas being advanced in the community.
This is one version of what is possible, and I believe, from the study I have done, that this is feasible. It may seem to be utopian thinking when viewed through the lens of the current UK where food bank uptake is rising exponentially. If poverty is to be reduced or eradicated in this wealthy nation, it should be obvious that the incremental change on offer from the Conservative or Labour parties is not going to cut it.
If these parties, wrapping themselves in the Union flag at every opportunity, really want their tenure to continue, it is time to go big or go home. The British public will not accept such incompetence in government for much longer. It may be best to assume that revolutionary change is coming one way or another and would be best as strategic rather than chaotic.
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