It takes all of us to build a fairer Scotland. Government can't do it on its own, nor would we want to. We want to work together with the people of Scotland, particularly those living in poverty, with communities, with business and industry, and with all public and third sector organisations. This will not be an easy or simple task, but if we all pull together and do our utmost, we can and we will succeed. And the prize is a precious one - by 2030, a fair, smart, inclusive Scotland, where everyone can feel at home, where fair work helps businesses to thrive and create jobs, where poverty rates are amongst the lowest in Europe, and where there is genuinely equal opportunity for all.
The challenge is huge, we will face barriers we can see, and new ones as yet unknown. We may even face cynicism and a lack of interest from some quarters. But this government is up to that challenge and will work with anyone and everyone who wants to make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous place.
We are aware we do so in the face of continuing UK Government welfare cuts and attempts to take Scotland out of Europe which has brought us further economic uncertainty, but we are committed to taking every action possible. This will be through the positive actions outlined in this document, and also through protecting people against the worst effects of welfare cuts through our investment of £100 million every year. For every pound spent on mitigation measures, there is a pound less that can be spent on boosting the economy, encouraging job creation and lifting people out of poverty. But while UK Government policies are making matters worse for people on low incomes, we will take action to support them.
What we really want to do is change deep seated, multi-generational, deprivation, poverty and inequalities. One of the key ways we will do this is through eradicating child poverty. We have set out long-term targets to reduce and ultimately end child poverty. Again, we know we are being ambitious and it will take time, but this is an area we must address if we are to ensure there is true equality of opportunity. In addition, whilst we are only getting 15% of the benefit budget, we will ensure our new social security system will have dignity and fairness at its heart. A clear action people have highlighted to us that they want.
"What we really want to do is change deep seated, multi-generational, deprivation, poverty and inequalities. One of the key ways we will do this, is through eradicating child poverty."
We will also ensure we consider the evidence of what is working, alongside what people are telling us makes a difference, to make sure our actions are having the positive impact we want. This may mean we have to take tough decisions or shift priorities, look at how we deliver services in a new or different way, but that will be part of the challenge we face. This government wants to know that the actions we all take, the funding we invest, is having a positive impact.
We started this process through our Fairer Scotland conversations in 2015 and we now publish this Fairer Scotland Action Plan. Built on the strong foundations of what we heard from people during those conversations, actions included here are ambitious, affordable and achievable. It's not an exhaustive list covering all of government and it doesn't cover actions we'd like to take but can't because the power to do so lies with the UK Government. But these actions will create a fairer society, with a focus on tackling poverty.
This publication is not the beginning or end of the process. It makes clear our actions in this parliamentary term, and we will report on our progress during that time, but it is also a clear commitment to the people of Scotland that we are taking long term action to change our society and make it a fairer and more equal place to live and we will continue to do so. We don't expect to 'fix' things within the five years of a parliamentary term; we are not looking for quick wins, but genuine cultural and societal change. That will take years and we are making clear this will take time, and it may be 2030 before we see changes for those areas that have been in poverty for too long.
"Our ambition is to build the fairer Scotland that all of us want to see. Your help will make it stronger still."
This plan is also an important part of our commitment to create 'inclusive growth', a fairness priority set out in Scotland's Economic Strategy and built upon in our recent Labour Market Strategy. Inclusive Growth underpins our dual ambition to tackle inequality and boost competitiveness and shows we have a vision of an economy where everyone can contribute and where the benefits of growth and are shared by all.
Inclusive growth cuts right across the Scottish Government's priority areas. It is built into how we invest and how we operate - from early years, childcare and education and skills training, to providing affordable housing, improving wages and working conditions and boosting productivity. Shared growth will help the most disadvantaged people and places in Scotland to prosper. This kind of 'inclusive' economy will improve outcomes for people and is vital for strong economic performance and a prosperous Scotland over the long-term.
As the First Minister said in her Priorities Speech following the election, 'Greater equality of opportunity will make a real difference to the lives of those who suffer disadvantage; but it will do so much more than that. It will boost our economy and enhance the quality of life of all of us. It will help to create not just a fairer nation, but one that is wealthier, healthier and happier'.
I said at the start that it takes all of us to build a fairer Scotland. That's why the plan also features fairness 'pledges' from the Poverty Truth Commission, Lloyds TSB Foundation, and Joseph Rowntree Foundation amongst others. And that's also why the first thing you'll see after these introductory remarks is a specially commissioned Foreword from two people who took part in the Fairer Scotland conversation - Marie-Therese Martin and Susan McMahon, both Poverty Truth Commissioners.
We're keen to know what you can do too. If you can make a pledge of your own - whether you're an individual or a family who wants to help, or you're an employer, a community group, a third sector body, or part of the public sector - please tell us about it using the contact details at the back.
I'd like to thank everyone who has made a pledge or who took part in the conversations or who helped us bring this plan together. Our ambition is to build the fairer Scotland that all of us want to see. Your help will make it stronger still.
Cabinet Secretary For Communities,
Social Security And Equalities
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