Scottish government holds anti-poverty summit

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By Laura Burgess, Senior Policy and Research Advisor at GMPA

Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, hosted a landmark cross-party, cross-sector anti-poverty summit in Edinburgh on Wednesday 3 May.  

The First Minister, who set tackling poverty as a defining priority of his government during his campaign for SNP leadership, brought together campaigners, political parties, people with lived experience of poverty and other key stakeholders to discuss action needed to tackle inequality in Scotland.

Describing ending poverty as his government’s “single biggest challenge”, the First Minister urged realism in tackling poverty and suggested ministers must focus on targeted interventions instead of universal provision. This was met with backlash from some campaigners after the suggestion that tight budget constraints could mean a move away from policies such as universal free school meals, but Yousaf insisted the Scottish Government “must be bold in considering future tax decisions”.

The summit came just weeks after a conference hosted jointly by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) and the Trussell Trust called “A Cash First Future” at the end of March. This conference succeeded in demonstrating that a move away from food banks and other in-kind support was not just a dream but becoming a reality across many parts of Scotland, where plenty of local and national cash-first approaches are already underway.

It is disappointing, however that at a summit focused on anti-poverty work and hosted by the Scottish government, no mention was made of the Scottish government’s draft plan to end the need for foodbanks, developed after receiving over 400 consultation responses.

Third-sector leaders have urged the Scottish Government to adopt a systemic approach to policymaking on poverty eradication and with a coinciding report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealing seven out of ten Scots have cut back on essentials in the last six months, it is crucial that a robust outlook on tackling poverty is adopted north of the border.

From a Greater Manchester perspective, it is heartening to see a leader address the issue of poverty head on and recognise their government’s role as the figurehead in tackling poverty and working towards a fairer and more just society. Whilst Scotland is ahead of the Westminster government on statutory anti-poverty targets, contained in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, it is evident that the Scottish government, along with Westminster, must be the standard-bearers of anti-poverty work and embed eradicating poverty across all areas of government.

Local authorities must be required to implement robust strategic responses to poverty and the voices of those with lived experience should be considered in all anti-poverty work.

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