Poverty is not inevitable; it shames us as a society and as a country; it can affect people of any age, but perhaps it has most impact on children. As a government we said we would take action to tackle child poverty - and we have - but there is more to do and we want to go further. We've promised children a better start in life and more opportunities as they grow up; our driving ambition is to give parents more and better-paid jobs and greater security in which to bring up their families; and to tackle deep-seated inequalities, especially in education and health. We want to ensure equality of opportunity for everyone in Scotland and end the cycle of poverty once and for all.
We therefore propose to enshrine our ambition to eradicate child poverty in a new Child Poverty Bill.
This ambition will be backed up by a robust delivery plan and targets against which we will report our progress, all of which will be anchored in legislation. A Child Poverty Bill will provide a framework for action and ways to hold the Government to account for our efforts in tackling poverty. But this isn't just a job for Government. Our ambition to tackle child poverty must be shared across the whole of Scotland. As part of this process I want to explore how we can work constructively with people who experience poverty and stakeholders such as local government, business and the third sector to maximise our efforts and deliver the best possible results.
Last year, the UK Government announced plans to repeal large parts of the Child Poverty Act 2010 including child poverty targets based on income, and removed child poverty from the remit of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission established by the Act. By their actions, UK Ministers have signalled that they do not see child poverty and the incomes of poor families as priorities. With this Bill, I am signalling that Scottish Ministers profoundly disagree.
Around one in five children live in poverty in Scotland. This is simply unacceptable in a modern, thriving country like ours. Children from the poorest families are less likely to get qualifications, less likely to get a job or go to university. We need to take urgent action - both to help those children who are living in poverty now, and to prevent future generations of children growing up in poverty.
The Child Poverty Bill will build on our existing measurement framework, and will form part of our overall approach to tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland. It will fit within the overarching agenda to be set out in our Fairer Scotland Action Plan.
Our Government Economic Strategy, which has Inclusive Growth at its heart, will be key to delivering our ambitions on child poverty. Inclusive growth underpins our dual ambition to tackle inequality and boost competitiveness. Delivering growth that is genuinely inclusive means creating jobs, promoting fair pay for all and providing the means to ensure people can take up employment opportunities through, for example, increasing childcare, ensuring skills and training is available for our future workforce, and supporting people into employment.
Of course, tackling child poverty is increasingly difficult in the face of UK Government welfare cuts and austerity measures which mean that child poverty is projected to rise over the coming years  . Alongside the economic uncertainty caused by the EU Referendum result, we recognise the scale of the challenge. We also recognise that we do not hold many of the necessary levers for change under the current constitutional settlement. But the scale of the challenge should not temper our ambition. We will strive to eradicate child poverty using all the levers available to us. But more than that, we will use this Bill to put in place a framework against which all future action will be measured, ensuring that improvements to services and policies will be sustained and developed for the longer term.
Legislation cannot achieve all of this alone, but it can be a key tool in driving forward meaningful change. It will set clear goals against which our progress will be measured, and will ensure we deliver targeted policies and work closely with partners outside of Government to achieve those goals.
We have had initial discussions with stakeholders, including the Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty and our Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequalities. Their views have informed the content of this consultation paper which sets out the existing Scottish approach, the background to the current legislative landscape, and our detailed proposals for a new Child Poverty Bill for Scotland. There are questions throughout the document, on which we welcome your views, evidence and comments.
I want to be absolutely clear that the Scottish Government is serious about our ambition to eradicate child poverty, and I want to work together with partners across Scotland to make that ambition a reality.
It is a bold ambition, but I believe that we must be bold in the face of challenge. I am proud to present these proposals, and proud of what they say about us as a government and as a country. Poverty is not inevitable, and we will not allow it to be swept under the carpet.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities
Email: Gillian Cross, email@example.com
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