SCOTLAND is one of the wealthiest countries in the world – but for far too many people it doesn’t feel that way.

To tackle child poverty head-on, the Scottish Government has introduced the Scottish Child Payment. This £10-a-week per child payment is for low-income families with children under the age of six. Around 108,000 children are now benefitting and by the end of next year it will be expanded to under-16s to reach many thousands more.

It’s already been described as a “game-changer” in the fight against child poverty and we are committed to doubling it to £20 at the earliest opportunity in this term of Parliament.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes: Scotland is a wealthy nation in waiting

But while the Scottish Government is lifting children out of poverty and helping families to make ends meet, the Westminster government is doing the opposite.

Last month, Boris Johnson’s Tories cut Universal Credit (which goes to low-income working families, those unable to work, and those out of work) by £20-a-week. The Scottish Children’s Commissioner pointed out this would wipe out the benefits of the Scottish Child Payment.

That’s a real hammer blow for nearly half a million families in Scotland but these are the consequences for people in Scotland when we get Tory governments we don’t vote for.

It’s not just democratically unacceptable – it causes real hardship. Although the Tories have not won a General Election in Scotland for more than 60 years, we’ve had to put up with Conservative governments for much of that time.

The National: Boris Johnson's Tories slashed Universal CreditBoris Johnson's Tories slashed Universal Credit

That’s meant the poll tax, the bedroom tax and years of austerity being imposed on people in Scotland, creating a big – and ever-widening –gap between rich and poor.

With independence we would have the powers to create a fairer society – free from the regressive policies of right-wing Tory governments.

We know what is possible because when we look at neighbouring countries in north-west Europe, we can see that, for nations of Scotland’s size, independence works.

With the powers that come with being an independent country, all of them are richer per head than the UK. And all of them are also more equal with lower levels of poverty.

If Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Austria and the rest can be fairer and richer than the UK then why not Scotland? After all, few, if any of them, have the resources and natural advantages that we have.

READ MORE: Michael Russell: Scotland can team up with friends to be wellbeing nation

A hallmark of a caring society is how it treats its older people. By that measure, Britain is failing miserably, with a state pension that is one of the most miserly in Europe as a percentage of average earnings.

And Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s recent Budget decision to ditch the triple lock – a mechanism making sure pensions at least kept pace with inflation – means our old folk are going to be even worse off.

With independence we can surely do more to raise the standard of living for our older fellow Scots. The actions that the Scottish Government has taken, with only limited powers and budget, should give us confidence about what can be achieved.

And the success of countries with similar or smaller populations and full powers of a normal independent nation shows we can do it.

We’ll have the powers we need to tackle the drivers of child poverty – for example, to raise the minimum wage to the real living wage and stop insecure employment. And control of all social security spending will lie here in Scotland. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the unfairness in our society like never before. But instead of taking measures to tackle this unfairness, we’ve seen instead over recent weeks where Westminster’s priorities lie.

They’ve given a big tax cut to the banks while incomes for many people are set to fall.

We have an opportunity to work together to create a better Scotland after Covid and to create that fairer, more just Scotland. It’s time to take our future into our own hands.

This article was part of our eight-page independence special, with one million copies printed and distributed. Click here to find out more