I was most interested to read Professor Trewavas’s contribution (Letters, 22 May) regarding the Scottish Government’s attitude to poverty. As one of his former students I have several issues to take with his argument.
Firstly he clearly, and I sadly suspect, deliberately, fails to differentiate between dealing with the effects of poverty and its causes.
Poverty is indeed a complex issue and is indeed “home grown”, at least within the current context, but this is as a result of years of Westminster policy on social housing, social security and squeezing local authority budgets.
Poverty can only be tackled when macro-economic policy and social security policy work hand in hand to generate circumstances and opportunities.
As far as I am aware, these areas are still “reserved powers” and the Scottish Government cannot legislate on them. It is therefore strange for Prof Trewavas to say it is “hypocrisy to suggest Westminster has prevented it [the Scottish Government] from doing so”.
The current Scottish Government has legislated for free prescriptions and free public transport for the retired. Prof Trewavas seems to think these policies favour the rich and middle classes. However, demographics clearly show those in poverty tend to be both the sickest and those who make most use of public transport. It follows that such changes actually help those in poverty much more than they help those who are not.
This deals with some of the effects of poverty as does the roll-out of free school meals to all those up to Primary 3.
He derides the Scottish Government for not using its tax-varying powers but given the constraints of the devolution settlement what could it usefully spend such revenue on? Yes, it could go to health and education, thus alleviating the effects of poverty but would do little to attack the causes.
It also begs the question – why did previous Labour/Liberal Democrat coalitions at Holyrood not use the tax varying powers to attack poverty? If we are committed to tackling the causes and effects of poverty we need complete control of macro-economic policy and social security. As far as I can see, the only way that we can achieve this is by voting Yes in September.
(Dr) Kenneth Peacock