Child poverty in Scotland is predicted to soar in the years ahead with more than one in three youngsters set to be plunged below the breadline in just over a decade.
Campaigners have branded the projections “horrific” and are demanding immediate action to avert the looming crisis.
The Scottish Government blames Westminster benefit cuts for the situation set out in research today, with ministers at Holyrood now seeking more control over fiscal and welfare powers to allow action to be taken.
It comes after stark figures last week showed about a million Scots are now living in relative poverty – including one in four children.
The Scottish Government is to unveil its long-awaited national plan to tackle poverty this week and today revealed findings from independent projections of child poverty levels it had commissioned. The analysis, which takes into account tax and benefit changes announced by the UK and Scottish governments, found the percentage of children living in relative poverty, which measures the gap between low and middle-income households, will increase from 23 per cent in 2018/19 to 38 per cent by 2030/31.
This marks an increase of two thirds.
Last week’s figures showed 230,000 youngsters in poverty, but this would rise to more than 360,000 under the projections set out.
It found absolute poverty – a measure of whether poorest households’ incomes are keeping pace with inflation – will rise from 20 per cent to 32 per cent.
Meanwhile, 16 per cent of children will be in “persistent” poverty, up from 10 per cent.
The key reason for the increases was cited as UK government cuts, including the benefit freeze and the two child limit on tax credits.
Communities Secretary Angela Constance said: “This reveals the long-term damage of UK government welfare cuts and austerity, with alarming increases across every measure of child poverty.
“We know the damage that has been caused already, but what alarms me is that the worst is still to come, with £4 billion annual cuts by the end of this decade set to take a stark toll on families and children.”
She added: “The UK government must urgently and drastically change course.
“If they won’t, then they must deliver the necessary powers and financial levers to Scotland so we can do things differently and actually lift people out of poverty as opposed to only being able to mitigate the UK government’s cuts.”
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, called for action from both Holyrood and Westminster to address the situation.
“There is no question that UK benefit cuts are driving tens of thousands of children into poverty with more and more of them in working families,” he said.
“UK ministers need to act to end the benefit freeze, lift the benefit cap and scrap the two child limit, all of which are leaving too many families struggling.
“But these figures demonstrate why it is also vital that the Scottish Government sets out how it will use its own social security powers to top up family benefits.”
Tory equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said the projections were “deeply concerning”. She said: “They demonstrate the SNP’s total inability to understand and address the complex cause of child poverty. We can tackle this issue, but only if we address the causes of child poverty including addiction, family breakdown, unemployment and educational under-attainment.”
Labour’s poverty spokeswoman Elaine Smith said the situation in Scotland was now “unacceptable”.
“The SNP has failed to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to halt Tory austerity, and that is why 210,000 Scottish children have been living in absolute poverty since 2009 – and 230,000 are now in relative poverty,” she said.