THERE are currently lots of political issues and personalities which are subject to faux – and often hypocritical – political outrage.

Lots of time and attention, funding and focus are devoted to matters which go round and round the political merry-go-round. Except it’s far from merry.

Meanwhile, there are some serious matters affecting Scots right now which merit far more rage, fury and heartbreak.

I’m talking about our youngest citizens. Scotland’s children. They are voiceless, powerless, and disenfranchised in the truest sense of the word.

And almost a quarter live in poverty.

A single child living without life’s basic necessities should offend all of us.

But in Scotland, it’s not a single child – it’s 250,000 children, according to the Scottish Government’s latest analysis published in March 2023.

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With high inflation, economic turmoil and stagnant wages, those socio-economic inequalities are widening. More and more families are plunged into fuel poverty, food insecurity and family turmoil.

Work is not the route out of poverty that perhaps it once was. The same analysis confirms that 69% of children in relative poverty were living in working households. That is 170,000 children.

Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, generated headlines at the weekend for suggesting that there had been an absolute failure to deliver for Scotland’s children.

Having watched Nicola Sturgeon lead the Scottish Government up close, I can unequivocally say that she cares sincerely and deeply about Scotland’s youngest citizens.

That’s why she prioritised funding for the Scottish Child Payment to financially assist children in poverty and introduced the baby box.

She also cared about hearing directly from young people. She hosted the Children’s Cabinet for successive years, to hear directly from children and young people – which wasn’t always a comfortable experience for Cabinet secretaries. Anybody who campaigned with her would often watch her make a beeline for children and babies in the crowd, to speak to them.

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But it can never be one leader or politician who eradicates poverty in Scotland. Adamson was absolutely right to remind all of us that there is much more to do.

The sentiment he shared echoes political leaders who’ve stated that the mark of success of any political career should be the extent to which the lives of our children are improved after we leave.

That applies to every single one of us, myself included.

Neither can it be one policy or intervention that eradicates poverty. Governments are often attracted by simple solutions to complex problems when instead we need a jigsaw puzzle of unwieldy interventions.

Whilst it is widely acknowledged that the Scottish Child Payment is game-changing and the baby box is welcome, they are only two pieces of a solution that requires many more interventions.

We need to start by understanding the problem. Data and analysis about poverty tell us the scale of the problem – it can tell us how many children are in poverty. However, it cannot capture the impact on each little life.

For each of these children and infants, statistics are irrelevant. Poverty shapes their whole world.

They don’t know when they’ll next eat or where they’ll sleep or how they’ll find the clothes for school. It affects family relationships, health and education. It creates fear, worry and tension.

Poverty is all-consuming, constant and debilitating. And that is the daily reality for too many of Scotland’s children.

In his interview, Adamson argued rightly that child poverty isn’t just about income. He talked about “an adequate standard of living for all children in Scotland, to have a safe, warm home, good nutritious food and the right clothes to wear”.

He also mentioned that health and education should enable children to meet their “fullest potential”.

Health and social care workers, charity workers and teachers are the first defence in the fight against poverty. I’ve been recently overwhelmed by the stories I’ve heard from them.

Perhaps they talk to me, as their local representative, because of their sense of powerlessness to fully care for every little life. Or perhaps it is because they feel like the debates and discussions that dominate the political arena are far removed from their frontline.

They are trying to improve the prospects of every little life in Scotland, and they want to know their political representatives share their priorities.

A few weeks ago, a foster carer shared her helplessness as she cared for a newborn baby, born to a

drug-addicted mother. Taken into care shortly after birth, this tiny little bundle experienced all the awfulness of withdrawal symptoms, screaming for hours. The foster carer said that in the last few years, she’d been asked to care for more and

more newborns going through withdrawal symptoms.

Another social worker talked to me about the growing need to supply free formula milk to mothers who couldn’t afford to buy it, whilst the babies grew increasingly underweight. The social worker also talked about the increasing number of vulnerable children, caught up in domestic abuse, addiction or poverty.

A charity worker, working with children in deprived communities, shared her heartbreak at meeting a five-year-old girl who’d never slept in a bed and couldn’t recall when she’d last had a hot meal.

Of all the issues consuming political time and effort, is

there anything more important

than improving the lives of our youngest Scots?

I don’t think so – and here are three ways to start.

Firstly, we need to unite across the political spectrum in agreeing that eradicating child poverty is a national mission. It means that it no longer becomes a political football.

It means that some of the faux outrage is replaced by serious debate about policy. It is well documented that when parties agree on a priority, it means you can plan for the long term. Eradicating child poverty permanently will take longer than one parliamentary term, and this would allow funding and policy decisions to be taken for the next few decades and not just for the next

few months.

Of course, it is much more difficult to do that when most of the economic and welfare powers lie in the hands of the UK Government which hasn’t helped.

Secondly, we can’t just pick and choose interesting policies from elsewhere. We need to offer a comprehensive, holistic plan that covers all the causes and symptoms of multi-generational inequality.

Finland offers an example of how to piece together support for parents and children, shifting the provision of welfare, offering better childcare and education and ensuring support throughout a child’s most formative years. Finland now has one of the lowest rates of child poverty across the OECD. It works.

Lastly, we need to equip our frontline workers and empower them to make decisions to support children and young people

in poverty.

Our health and social care workers, teachers and charity workers are already present in the lives of so many families.

Indeed our system of health visiting means all children are already known to our many

public services.

Support them to offer tailored

help and support and you can transform a young life. The same goes for our teachers.

We too could radically reduce child poverty, but it won’t happen by chance. And until then, all of us are rebuked by the plight of some of Scotland’s youngest citizens.