Tackling child poverty: letter from First Minister John Swinney to Sir Keir Starmer

Letter from First Minister John Swinney to Sir Keir Starmer to work together to eradicate child poverty.

To: Sir Keir Starmer
From: First Minister John Swinney

Dear Sir Keir,

As First Minister of Scotland, I have been clear that I intend to work constructively across Parliament in a good-faith effort to deliver for the people of Scotland and to find consensus wherever possible.  

Given the overwhelming likelihood that you will be the next UK Prime Minister, I would like to extend that same offer to you.

For too long, the relationship between the Scottish and UK Governments has not been a positive one, given the very clear policy disagreements between us.  I would like that to change, and for us to be able to forge a constructive working relationship.

There will be areas where we disagree but I am confident that there are a number of shared goals and values and that these are what we should base our working relationship on.

For example, I have set out that my top priority as Scotland’s First Minister is to eradicate child poverty.  I am confident that this is an aim that you will share and so I ask that you commit to working with us to achieve it. It will be to the benefit of all the people we represent.

I commit to doing everything in the Scottish Government’s power to achieve this goal, building on our progress so far with our policies estimated to keep 100,000 children out of relative poverty this year.  But given the current constitutional settlement, if we are to make the swiftest possible progress this will also require action by an incoming Labour UK Government.  As you know, I favour full powers over these issues being in Scotland’s hands through independence, but this should not prevent us working together to make progress now.

As a first step, I will urge that a government you lead changes course on the punitive social security policies of the current UK Government, which I know are causing misery for millions of families. 

There is clear action that could be taken immediately by a government you lead. For example, recent analysis by the Scottish Government has estimated that reversing the two child limit and reintroducing the Family Element in Universal Credit would lift 10,000 children out of poverty in Scotland.  Similarly, our analysis suggests that the introduction of an Essentials Guarantee as proposed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation could see 30,000 fewer children in Scotland living in relative poverty with a similar impact on absolute child poverty.

Thus far, you have indicated that you will stick to current UK Government welfare and spending plans.  I am urging you to change course and to commit to working with me in the left of centre political tradition, to eradicate the curse of child poverty for good and for the benefit of all in families across the UK.

It would be beneficial to discuss this with you face to face and I would be happy to meet you in early course to allow us to make swift progress.

I look forward to working together.

John Swinney MSP

First Minister of Scotland

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