Number of Scots in poverty rises to highest level for two decades at 1.1m

The number of Scots living in poverty has reached its highest for almost 20 years, with “disturbing” figures showing more than 1.1 million adults, children and pensioners are affected.

Scottish Government data shows that over the period 2019 to 2022, there were 1,110,000 people across the country living in relative poverty – meaning the amount of money they have is less than 60 per cent of UK median income after housing costs are taken into consideration.

That is up from 1,030,000 in the period 2018 to 2021, and is the highest number of people in poverty since 2000 to 2003, when the total was 1,140,000.

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The latest data shows 250,000 – almost one in four (24 per cent) – youngsters were living in relative poverty, with this total said to be the equivalent of 10,000 primary school classes of children.

Poverty in Scotland has hit a 20 year highPoverty in Scotland has hit a 20 year high
Poverty in Scotland has hit a 20 year high

Of these, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) were living in households where at least one person was in work.

Legally binding targets passed by Holyrood commit ministers to reducing the number of children in relative poverty in Scotland to 18 per cent by next year – before reducing this further to less than 10 per cent by 2030.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “In a rich country these scandalous levels of child poverty are utterly unacceptable and a stark reminder how vital the Scottish Government’s focus on child poverty is.”

As Nicola Sturgeon steps down as First Minister, he called on Scotland’s next leader to increase “crucial investment” in the Scottish Child Payment – which currently pays out £25 a week per child to eligible low-income families.

Mr Dickie said: “It’s children that pay the highest possible price for poverty – they pay with their health, their wellbeing and their life chances.”

Philip Whyte, director of the IPPR Scotland think tank, said Scotland was “barely making a dent in our persistently high child poverty rate”.

He added: “Although important, targets almost a decade away mean little when a quarter of a million children are locked in poverty right now and progress has stagnated.

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“These figures should be a warning that we need to go further, faster with all the tools at our disposal.”

The latest figures cover the period 2019 to 2022 – with the Scottish Government pointing out that Covid had a “significant economic impact” during this time, along with the “devastating impact of the UK Government’s decade of austerity”.

The figures show 710,000 working-age adults were living in relative poverty in 2019 to 2022 after housing costs – which is 21 per cent of this part of the population – as well as 15 per cent of pensioners, meaning 150,000 elderly Scots are struggling to get by.

Jamie Livingstone, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said the “disturbing” new statistics show “the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have dealt a devastating double blow to those on the lowest incomes”.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said “too many people are living in poverty”, as she stressed ministers have “committed to break the cycle of poverty in Scotland within the scope of our powers and budget”.



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