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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116 Responses to “Why am I angry about Yes Scotland’s latest poster on child poverty? Let me show you”

  1. Ken Bell

    Another Harry’s Place webmong wanders along to greet me after so many years of separation. You must really miss me. I find that quite sweet. Retarded, but sweet.

    I feel pretty good about UKIP. The events surrounding my gloating when Thatcher died show the party really is the voice of lower middle class types and offers nothing to people like me. Getting interviewed by Channel Four news about was just the icing on the cake and my 15 minutes of fame were received with glee.

    Given that I had already made a bit of a name for myself as the bloke who helped all and sundry fill in their benefit claim forms, I was well placed to do well for my people last year, but UKIP chose to go all precious on me. Kippers remind me a bit of the HP crowd, probably because they are of a similar suburban type, so you might get on well with them.

    Listen, it’s been great chatting again. It’s amazing that I spent yesterday with dear old Alex McSpazhead and now you renew an old acquaintanceship again.


  2. S&A

    ‘Alex McSpazhead’, ‘webmong’ … the mask is slipping, Spanker. Still, at least you’ve spared the LLF crowd the misogynistic abuse you used to steep to on such a regular basis.

    If even UKIP won’t have you, who will? Perhaps you might want to go knocking on the BNP’s door again, or maybe you’re too obnoxious even for them.

  3. Alec

    “Mong”, “Mc[1]Spazhead”… forget about the inherent abuse of the mentally/physically disabled, when is this? Nineteen bloody Eighty?


    [1] I’m a full Mac.

  4. Bob Siren

    If you want to depict an image of poverty, you don’t use an image of a well fed, well dressed, happy child in shiny patent leather shoes. You can try as hard as you might, when you are poverty stricken, it shows. Thats not denigration, thats reality.

  5. Alf Kelly

    As someone who has lived life of poverty in the 50s Can I say one of the reasons that I am voting NO is I will not leave the working classes of the rest of the UK to the mercies of the Tories if I can avoid it, unlike some of the professed socialists.

  6. Alec

    Hi, down bellow there’s a former UKIP candidate advocating a YES vote, and you ‘liked’ his comment. Given your immediately aggressive response – based on frankly tendentious reasoning – to Peter, is it not time you apologizes and never ever ever took the moral highground again?


  7. Mat Bob Jeffery

    Alec, hang on… let me get this straight… you want me to apologise for airing my opinion, and liking someone’s comment who agreed with me in regards to Scottish independence? I’m not sure what I find funnier – the fact that you are still commenting on a post nearly a month old, or your obscenely childish attitude towards those that disagree with your views. Something has obviously rattled you. I’m not really sure I care what that is to be honest…

    I will not apologise for my initial post, and here is why – I come from a dirt poor background. there were weeks when my family was entirely reliant upon the goodwill of our local church community for our food, and gas and electricity top ups. When I see that picture, I see MY childhood. To me, it is not a stereotype, it is what I experienced. This was not in the 50’s. I was born in 87. My experiences are from the 90’s. as such, I feel that I have a right to express my opinion on this. Tough shit you don’t like it. It’s even tougher shit that you seem to think you have a right to silence and belittle someone who has experienced pretty much the lowest form of poverty there is in this country.

    I stated what I personally felt when I read that article. To me, it reeked of privilege. His personal story doesn’t change that. He even defines himself as “middle-class”.

    What gives you the right to try and coerce an apology out of me? Are you God in disguise? Do you have some sort of divine mandate to patrol discussion boards? All for stating my opinion, and for liking someone’s comment you seem to have history with?

    Something else is bugging me about your response too. You seem to be absolutely fine with Peter’s anger, but not mine. I haven’t asked for an apology from Peter, in spite of the fact I find the reasoning in his post frankly, offensive. One rule for the middle class, another for the underclass eh?

  8. Mat Bob Jeffery

    In spite of my post – I can definitely appreciate that reasoning!

  9. Mat Bob Jeffery

    well said!

  10. Alec

    No, I want you to apologize for your instantly aggressive response to Russell which was based on tendentious reasoning which turned out to be utterly wrong. I want you to apologize for your innate sectarianism which leaves you convulsed with loathed for the faults – real or perceived – in others but utterly blind to those in yourself.

    I don’t think you have to apologize for associating yourself with the revolting Ken Bell – you didn’t know his history after all – because I don’t judge by the faulty reasoning and poor discernment you showed to Russell.


  11. Alec

    I’d go further than that. What’s is especially distasteful are those who are promising an uncosted and untried manifesto who is going to result in spending pitfalls or even, when challenged, say stuff like “whatever it takes”… the poorest sector of society will suffer, but like Leona Helmsley it’s a price worth paying.


  12. Mat Bob Jeffery

    Alec, quite simply, you do not have the authority to demand an apology from me. I don’t see the need to apologise for stating my views about this article. My reasoning was not wrong. He views himself as middle class, and says so within the article. As such, my critique stands.

    I am not sectarian Alec. If Russell want’s to contribute towards the discussion, fine. What I do believe, however, is that solutions must be led by those who experience the problems. If more advantaged people want to participate, fine. What they must not do is overshadow the voices they seek to assist. That is what I see Russell doing here, voicing his own anger (which you seem to think is fine) about the use of a kid with muck all over them by the “Yes” campaign. As I said previously, I have experienced this sort of poverty first hand, and identify fully with that image. I don’t view the use of that image as offensive or manipulative.

    This is why my response was instant, and aggressive. I will not apologise for calling it out, and I certainly don’t see why you seem to think you have the authority to demand that from me.

  13. Alec

    No, we need a credible picture of a disadvantaged child. And not one who plainly has parents who don’t believe in soap.


  14. Mat Bob Jeffery

    I have said what I needed to say. I’m not in the mood for continuing this farce of a “debate”. You can have the last word should you wish to, oh mighty patroller of Discus.

  15. Alec

    Alec, quite simply, you do not have the authority to demand an apology from me.

    And to think you demanded one from Russell! Ridiculous buffoon!

    You are wrong about Russell. You are not the only one who’s experienced poverty and been disadvantaged. Will you have stopped behaving like a lippy teenager by the time you’re 30?

    I am not sectarian Alec.

    Oh, that settles it. PS You are.


  16. Alec

    You have every right to expect me not to respond to you on private e-mail or your personal blog… naff all on an open discussion forum. To think that you do is a bit like a “mighty patroller of Disqus”. Then again, sectarian louts don’t normally have a sense of self-awareness.

    You can have the last word should you wish to,

    If you genuine believed that – and were not behaving like a spoiled middle-class twerp throwing a godawful temper tantrum – you wouldn’t have made that comment.

    But, you just had to have the last word, didn’t you?


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