Scottish Election 2021: Poverty high on voters' priority list, according to new poll

Political parties will have to respond to growing public concerns about poverty during the Holyrood election campaign after a new poll found three quarters of adults will prioritise tackling the issue when they decide which party they will back.
Poverty is high on the list of Scottish voters' priorities according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Poverty is high on the list of Scottish voters' priorities according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Poverty is high on the list of Scottish voters' priorities according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

New polling of more than 2,000 adults in Scotland by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found three quarters want the government to tackle poverty and believe it can be significantly reduced.

The poll found poverty was one of the five issues most likely to be selected as a priority for the next Scottish Government, alongside the NHS, the economy, jobs and employment, and education.

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Further, 63 per cent believe the Scottish Government could do more to tackle poverty, with more than half believing specific help for low-income families with children is needed.

And the poll found the most supported government intervention would be a minimum income guarantee, with 77 per cent of respondents supporting it and just 12 per cent opposing it.

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Improving support for groups such as single parents or disabled people was supported by 72 per cent, while increasing the level of benefits for families with children who are in poverty was supported by 71 per cent of respondents.

Both interventions were supported by more than half of potential voters across all political parties.

As a result, JRF is calling on the next Scottish Government to commit to agreeing a floor below which people in Scotland’s income should not drop.

Chris Birt, JRF’s deputy director for Scotland, said all parties must set out how they will tackle poverty in their election manifestos.

“Poverty is a high priority in Scottish voters’ minds ahead of the election in May, and parties that wish to resonate with the public’s concerns and values must put a plan to tackle Scotland’s stubbornly high poverty levels at the heart of their campaign for election,” he said.

“All parties in Scotland have made a promise to stamp out child poverty. This is a powerful sign that in our country, we will not tolerate the injustice of poverty.

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"But progress is worryingly slow and people believe the government could do more.”

He added: "We need to see ambitious and detailed plans from all parties that outline how they can achieve their promise. Meeting these targets would mean freeing tens of thousands of children from the grip of poverty, allowing them instead to grow up healthy, safe and ready to thrive as adults.”

The organisation has said in Scotland around one million people are trapped in poverty, around a quarter of whom are children, and that whichever government is elected in May, it will be responsible for meeting the interim poverty reduction target of 18 per cent by 2023/24.

JRF has also said while the new Scottish Child Payment is “welcome”, it still leaves Scotland on course to miss its interim target by 4 per cent – the equivalent of 40,000 children.

Mr Birt said all parties “must therefore demonstrate a scale of ambition in their manifestos to match the scale of the challenge ahead”.

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