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I recently took part in a debate on support for children in receipt of free school meals, something from which I benefited as a pupil.

Levels of child poverty were rising even before the Covid19 pandemic and continue to do so, despite the Prime Minister insisting the opposite is the case.

While the UK Government was shamed into providing free school meals during school holidays, the SNP Scottish Government is expanding free school breakfasts and lunches to every primary school pupil. This, coupled with the Scottish Child Payment of £10 per week, which is set to be doubled to £20 per week and will assist 450,000 children, shows the commitment the Scottish Government has to tackle child poverty, despite 85% of welfare powers being reserved the UK Government.

The flaws in the way Universal Credit is administered has contributed to trapping people in hardship and pushing them further from the job market – the opposite of what it is supposed to do. Yet the Tory Government is unwilling to make the necessary improvements in how this system has been established.

Hungry children cannot concentrate in school, and without tackling poverty we cannot tackle the poverty-related attainment gap.

Most children living in poverty have at least one parent in work. The Westminster Government has all the necessary levers over welfare and taxation to tackle this scourge. Instead it has simply chosen to scrap targets to reduce child poverty, while presiding over its rise.

Scotland’s children deserve better.

Watch my speech below.


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