HERE in Scotland many of our children are ensnared in the grip of poverty, a scourge that is a silent thief of potential. As an MSP, I’ve seen and heard first hand how daunting our task to eradicate it is, particularly as a result of systemic barriers and political choices beyond Holyrood’s devolved reach.

It’s a frustration that runs deep in my bones and I am sure in all of those tasked with consigning it to history.

I chaired the recent meeting of the Children in Scotland cross-party group at Holyrood and was moved beyond words when I was faced with expert testimony shedding a stark light on the health implications of poverty on children.

The outcomes are extreme, long-lasting and detrimental not only to the individuals directly affected but to our society. I felt deflated by the human cost we are seeing but also resolved to continue to fight for justice for all those affected.

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Not long after this meeting, I received correspondence from the Food Foundation with some alarming revelations which underscored the gravity of our situation. With 60% of food-insecure

households reporting a decrease in fruit purchases and an even larger portion abstaining from vegetables, the dietary gap widens, laying the groundwork for a health crisis poised to reverberate through generations.

This isn’t just a statistic, it’s about lives – lives stifled by circumstances; lives where the prospect of a healthy meal is a luxury rather than a given, and where families are forced to choose between nourishment and financial survival in the face of an unrelenting cost of living crisis.

In Scotland, despite our fervent efforts, the shadow of poverty looms large, with 20% of households with children grappling with food insecurity. Scotland though, in response, is not standing idly by.

The Scottish Government, underpinned by a commitment to social justice, has embarked on a mission to alleviate child poverty.

READ MORE: Scottish poverty rates below UK average – as Westminster 'shirks responsibility'

The second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan sets out a significant stride towards this goal, with projections indicating a potential drop to the lowest levels of child poverty in nearly three decades.

This is more than policy, it’s a promise of a better tomorrow for more than 60,000 children who might otherwise have been left behind. Scotland’s political desires and priorities stand as a beacon of hope and resilience. Our commitment shows a future where we’re not just envisioning change, we’re creating it.

Yet our efforts to weave a safety net for these families are continually challenged by a system that seems designed to hinder rather than help. The stark reality is that, within the constraints of the Union, our aspirations for a poverty-free Scotland are met with the systemic barriers I spoke of – barriers that stifle progress and perpetuate suffering.

The recent judicial decisions and political rhetoric emanating from Westminster serve as a reminder of the limitations imposed on our legislative powers, underscoring a troubling disconnect between political agendas and the welfare of our citizens.

We are, as my colleague Maree Todd (below) once put it, “fighting with one hand tied behind our backs”. The path to eradicating child poverty in Scotland is fraught with complexities and challenges. But it’s a path we tread with determination, guided by the belief that every child deserves a fair start in life.

The National: EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - MARCH 15 : Public Health Minister Maree Todd during Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament, on March 15, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)

Our mission extends beyond financial aid. It’s about reshaping a society where opportunity isn’t dictated by birthright and where every child can dream without restraint. Yet, as the cost of living soars and the choices families face become ever starker, it’s clear that resilience alone is not enough.

I see Scotland as a country fuelled by a belief defined not by the wealth of the few but by the wellbeing of the many. Our endeavour to lift children out of poverty is a moral imperative, a testament to our values as a society and a reflection of our commitment to the sanctity of every child’s future.

We must stay grounded in our advocacy for those who depend on us most. The fight against child poverty in Scotland is about making tangible, everyday differences in the lives of our children. It’s about ensuring every Scottish child has a fair shot at success, not because it’s a government duty, but because it’s our responsibility as a society.

By working together, we have the power to significantly reduce poverty, making real changes that will allow every child to grow, learn, and dream without limitations. This effort demands a collective push, a shared understanding that lifting children out of poverty strengthens our entire nation.

Let us not measure our success by the obstacles we have encountered but by the progress we have made, especially in the lives of children who stand to gain the most from our efforts and our commitment to making Scotland a place where no child is held back by their start in life.

The vision of an independent Scotland is closely tied to this promise. Independence offers us the chance to fully tackle child poverty head-on, without the constraints imposed by policies that don’t always align with our priorities or values. In an independent Scotland, we can design and implement strategies that directly address the unique challenges our children face, ensuring that social justice is at the heart of all we do.

The road ahead is indeed long, but our determination to make Scotland a better place for our children is stronger than any obstacle. Together, we continue to strive for a Scotland where every child can thrive, buoyed by the belief that a more equitable, prosperous future is not only possible but within our grasp.