Scottish poverty levels rise after 10-year decline

Richard Leonard. Picture: PA wire
Richard Leonard. Picture: PA wire
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The rate of poverty in Scotland has risen to 20 per cent, climbing for the first time after a decade of declining rates.

A Social Metrics Commission (SMC) study indicates the rate of poverty in Scotland increased slightly for 2017/18 in an alarming result after “a steady downward trend for more than a decade”.

It is the same rate as Northern Ireland and higher than the south-east of England (18 per cent), but lower than Wales (24 per cent), London (28 per cent) and the UK average (22 per cent).

The report suggests 26 per cent of single Scots are in poverty while the rate is 42 per cent for lone parents.

Couples with children have a 21 per cent poverty rate compared to 11 per cent for couples without children.

The report says: “Compared to the UK average, poverty rates are generally higher for people living in Wales and lower for those living in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Overall poverty rates in England, Northern Ireland and Wales have broadly followed the overall trends in the UK poverty rate, falling slowly in the early 2000s, rising during the financial crisis and recession and then falling post-recession.

“Changes in Scotland have been different, where up to 2015/16 the poverty rate had been on a steady downward trend for more than a decade.

“However, in the most recent two years of data, the poverty rate in Scotland has risen.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard criticised Boris Johnson over the figures on the day he visited Scotland for the first time as Prime Minister.

He said: “On the same day that old Etonian Johnson visits Scotland, this is a reminder of what the Tories have done in power.

“They are the party of the few, not the many – and their callous austerity agenda over the past nine years has caused nothing, but misery for people across Scotland and the UK.

“Scotland needs radical change, and Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster that will raise the minimum wage, invest in vital public services and raise the standard of living so that the scandal of poverty is eradicated from our society.” Overall there are 14.3 million people in poverty in Britain, including 8.3 million working-age adults, 4.6 million children and 1.3 million pension-age adults, the report said.

Seven million people, including 2.3 million children, are classed as in persistent poverty, defined as being in poverty for at least two of the previous three years.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of people in poverty, totalling 6.8 million, live in a family where someone is disabled.

The poverty line in the UK is defined by one common measure as those earning 60 per cent of the median income, but the SMC uses a different poverty threshold it defines as being people living below 54 per cent of the median of what it calls total resources available, including income, assets and costs such as housing and childcare.

The SMC said its findings highlight the scale of the challenge facing Mr Johnson in tackling poverty across Britain.

SMC chairwoman Philippa Stroud said: “It is concerning that overall poverty has remained at almost the same level since the early 2000s, under governments of all colours.

“But it is also clear that beneath the surface there are significant differences in the experience of poverty among different groups of people.”