Why am I angry about Yes Scotland’s latest poster on child poverty? Let me show you

The latest child poverty poster from YesScotland is an insult to every low income parent and child in Scotland.

The latest child poverty poster from Yes Scotland is an insult to every low income parent and child in Scotland, writes Peter Russell

The accompanying press release is clear about this image:

“a waist-down image of a little girl in scuffed and battered footwear, dirty ankle socks and a ragged skirt.” 

So what is the problem, why is a middle-aged middle class Labour voter so livid about it? Here’s why.

First, it is an outright and foul insult to every low income parent and child in Scotland and the UK, through its depiction of them as dirty, scruffy and negligent.

I took up the issue with CPAG Scotland whose director, John Dickie, confirmed:

 “As you will see from our own written and visual material we are always very careful to reflect the reality that parents go to extraordinary lengths to protect their children from the poverty they face, very often going without basics themselves in order to ensure their children don’t have to go without.”

I am still at a loss to understand why CPAG Scotland did not also take me up on the challenge that they should condemn this denigration of low income families (but that is on their conscience.)

But here is a second reason to be furious about the poster: the figure of 100,000 extra children in poverty by 2020. This is in direct contradiction to the Scottish government’s own White Paper which tells us that by the same date the increase will be by  50,000.

Any single child being forced into poverty is of course an outrage, and certainly 50,000 is too high, but the point here is that there is a discrepancy of 100 per cent between the Scottish government and Yes Scotland.

Why should anyone believe either figure, both of which are being used for partisan propaganda purposes?

In the poster, the small print says in advocating independence:

“There is only one guaranteed way to reverse the growing number of children living in poverty.”

This is a lie.

There are other ways; above all changes in government policy at a UK level, which would also benefit children in poverty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This may require a change of government, but is does not require independence.

And there is no ‘guarantee’ that independence will reverse the trend.

Anyone reading the poster would imagine that there is a comprehensive, fully-costed proposal for the alleviation of child poverty on the table. However, like the rest of the SNP White Paper, all we have is vague assertions on child poverty: no costings, no projections, no guarantees at all.

And in fact, we know from their actions that the SNP cannot be trusted on poverty and equality issues. For example, they recently voted down a proposal to require the Scottish government’s contractors and suppliers to pay the Living Wage; similarly, they voted down a proposal for an inquiry into wage inequality.

Most tellingly, we can take the SNP’s proposal for Scandinavian-style ‘transformational’ childcare provision as an example of how it approaches policies for children and families.

It has transpired since the publication of the proposals, in the White Paper, that there is no evidence for claims which are made. No modelling, no projections, no costings: and FoI requests for this information have been rejected as being ‘not in the public interest’ (which is a laugh in itself: how is the public interest not served by information which will help it make its mind up in the referendum?).

These examples all show that the Nationalists are only interested in child poverty as a propaganda tool, and as a stick with which to beat the UK.

There can be no greater contrast than with the UK Labour governments 1997-2010, which introduced the Minimum Wage and Working Families Tax credits as well as many other measures which reduced child poverty by nearly 1,000,000 across the UK including 100,000 in Scotland (these were described as “heroic” by the UK CPAG, and were surely just well appreciated by its Scottish arm.)

An incoming Labour government could do the same again, across the UK. What is needed is not a change of nationality for Scots, but a change of government and a change of policies.

The difference is clear: it is between those who see child poverty and will act to fight it, and those in Yes Scotland and the SNP who are concerned only as far as it suits their narrow partisan agenda.

The public should now know:

  • They will use disgraceful images of people in poverty which suggest that low income families neglect their children, and allow them to go dirty and a scruffy, if they think it will win votes.
  • If there is any doubt, Nationalists and their misguided supporters will choose the highest available figure to inflate their claims.
  • They will make claims which are unsupported and they know they cannot support, and when asked to do so, they will claim it is not in the public’s interest to know about such things.

There are three conclusions which we can draw from this disgraceful episode.

The first is that YesScotland is desperate and will do anything, and say anything, to get a referendum vote.

The second is that the SNP Scottish government has only a skin-deep commitment to equality and to tackling child poverty.

And the third is that if there is a little girl with dirty legs, a frayed skirt and scuffed shoes, what she needs is a bath, some new clothes and some shoe polish.

A greater income for her parents, be they in work or unemployed, is what will help with these, while independence will not help in the slightest.

Peter Russell blogs at Planet Pedro!

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