CHILD poverty should be a source of shame for Scotland. Almost one-quarter of our young people are growing up in poverty, and this week a report into the impact this is having on their health and wellbeing made for some difficult reading.

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The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s State of Child Health report did show some progress being made, for example in breastfeeding rates and infant mortality, but the key messages were that in many areas, health outcomes and inequalities for children in deprived areas have worsened.

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Even where there have been notable improvements in children’s health, Scotland is often lagging far behind other countries, including those in the UK.

The factors behind this are varied and complex but we cannot ignore the statistic that 24% of children in Scotland are still living in poverty. While the Scottish Government’s targets to reduce this are ambitious, Scottish Green research has uncovered that more than 100,000 families may not get access to money aimed at reducing child poverty. It is estimated by the Scottish Fiscal Commission that there will only be 74% take-up of the Scottish Child Payment in 2024-25.

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If we are to meet legal child poverty targets, we need to make sure people are actually accessing the support that’s available, starting with a plan to quickly increase awareness and take-up of the payment.

Another stark finding in the report is that Scotland has the highest rate of adolescent mortality in the UK. This is very worrying.

There has been a lot of good work to reduce youth violence in Scotland which has drawn attention from elsewhere, even if a higher violence rate than the rest of the UK persists.

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But it’s clear not enough is being done to keep our young people safe. The leading cause of death for adolescents is accidents and one of the report’s recommendations was for local authorities to provide safer environments for children and young people to walk, play and travel. Suggestions included

the expansion of 20mph zones within built-up areas.

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The Scottish Greens are ahead of the curve on this issue. My colleague Mark Ruskell MSP introduced a bill into Parliament which, if it had been passed, would have reduced the general speed limit on residential streets and minor roads in urban areas to 20mph. Sadly, this was voted down by SNP, Tory and LibDem MSPs last June, representing a missed opportunity to improve the safety, health and wellbeing of young people.

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Now that the proposal is being taken up in Wales and London, the Scottish Government should revisit the idea. Ministers could put the interests of our children first and make our roads safer for all those who use them by legislating on this issue. This would almost certainly help to reduce accident-related deaths amongst young people.

Improving the safety of our environment also extends to air quality. The report also recommended local authorities monitor the population’s exposure to air pollution.

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The Right to Play is incorporated into the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and it is vital that young people have access to clean, good quality green space, where they can reap the benefits of outdoor play and spend time with nature, removed from the danger and pollution of busy roads.

Children have the right to a space where they can play in safety and comfort, without the threat of speeding cars or clouds of exhaust looming over them.

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This also applies to how young people move around our towns and cities. The report also states that local authorities should commit to a greater number of cycle lanes and pedestrian routes.

Travelling to school by bike or on foot is a great way for young people to incorporate being active into their everyday lives and children should have access to safe travel routes. However, there are still too many serious accidents involving children walking and cycling on our roads. Things are clearly travelling in the wrong direction.

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The same can be said for mental health. This week it was revealed that the number of young people being treated by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Scotland has decreased significantly in the last year and waiting times have worsened, with only two-thirds of people being seen within 18 weeks.

Despite the efforts of our overburdened NHS staff, services are struggling to meet demand and children and young people in distress are still facing unacceptable waits for treatment. We need clear answers on why waiting lists are growing ever longer when treatment numbers are falling.

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We need radical and bold action to improve child health in Scotland. The fact that almost one-quarter of our young people are growing up in poverty is truly shocking.

It must be acknowledged and celebrated that, in some ways, quality of life for Scotland’s young people has improved in the past three years.

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However, it’s clear we have a long way to go before every child in Scotland is living a long, happy and healthy life.