SCOTLAND’s poverty and child poverty rates are below the UK average and the Westminster government could be accused of “shirking its responsibility”, according to a leading charity’s new report.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) published its analysis of poverty rates in the UK on Tuesday, finding that the six million poorest people in the UK – those living in very deep poverty – would need to on average to “more than double their income” to move out of it.

The report said that UK-wide poverty rates are at 22% – an estimated 14.4 million people – while UK child poverty rates are at 29%, or around 4.2m children.

In Scotland, poverty rates are slightly lower on 21%, while child poverty rates are five points lower, on 24%. England’s rates are at 22% and 31% respectively, while Wales’s are at 22% and 28%.

Northern Ireland fared better, with poverty rates at 16% and child poverty rates on 22%.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar under pressure to speak out against Starmer's green pledge 'U-turn'

In December, a report from Unicef found that the UK Government had, from 2012 to 2019, overseen the worst rise in child poverty out of the world's 39 richest countries.

The Tories saw an almost 20% increase in the child income poverty rate, while second-worst Iceland had a significantly lower rise of 11%.

JRF associate director for Scotland Chris Birt said that with a General Election on the horizon, Scottish politicians had to explain how the Westminster government could act to cut poverty rates north of the Border.

He said: “The UK Government has significant power and a duty to ease hardship in Scotland. They cannot wash their hands of responsibility just because it is shared with Holyrood. With hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland struggling to make ends meet, people need both of their governments to grasp their responsibility to act.

“As this report shows, the UK Government could, however, be accused of shirking its responsibility because it is ignoring the basic fact that people cannot afford the essentials of food, heating and others, through social security. Universal Credit is failing if it can’t fulfil its purpose to help people in their toughest times.

“It also shows how poverty has been deepening, with many people needing to double their income simply to escape poverty, never mind secure a good standard of living.

READ MORE: Unicef shames UK Government as child poverty levels soar

“With a General Election on the horizon, the parties standing in Scotland need to explain to people how they believe the next UK Government should use the powers of Westminster to turn the tide on the hardship that far too many face.”

Within Scotland, the highest child poverty rates are in Glasgow City (32%), followed by North Ayrshire (29%), and then Clackmannanshire and West Dunbartonshire (both 28%).

In England, the West Midlands has a child poverty rate of 38%, the north east was on 35%, north west on 34%, and London and the east Midlands both on 33%.

The lowest rates in Scotland are in East Renfrewshire (14%), East Dunbartonshire, and the Shetland Islands (both 15%). There are three further local authorities with a child poverty rate under 20% (Na h-Eileanan Siar, City of Edinburgh, and Aberdeenshire).

The National:

The SNP pointed to the Scottish Child Payment, which provides lower-income families with £25 a week for each child, as a reason for the comparatively lower rates north of the Border.

David Linden (above), the party’s social justice spokesperson at Westminster, said: “Fourteen years of Tory austerity have led to almost Dickensian levels of extreme poverty in the UK, making clear that Westminster can’t be trusted to take steps to tackle the growing issue.

“At every opportunity the UK Tory government has doubled down on their punitive policies and ignored every suggestion that could lift households out of poverty, including SNP calls to replicate the Scottish Child Payment across the UK, introduce an energy social tariff for vulnerable households, and bring back the £400 energy rebate and implement a Real Living Wage.”

The JRF report found the poverty gap, the amount of money needed to bring the incomes of people in poverty up to the poverty line, has nearly doubled since the mid-90s.

A couple with two children under-14 in poverty in 2024 would need an additional £6200 per year to reach the poverty line, with families in very deep poverty needing £12,800 to reach the poverty line, it said.

Linden went on: “For years we have seen that with every step forward we take in Scotland, the Tory government drags us back two. It’s impossible for the Scottish Government to fully eradicate poverty in Scotland when it has one hand tied behind its back, with a cloud of Tory austerity and Brexit lingering over us.

"Only by voting SNP in this year's General Election can we make Scotland Tory-free, and ensure a strong team of SNP MPs are standing up for Scottish households and their budgets at Westminster."