Poverty and Inequality remain persistent
By Euan Davidson in East Lothian Courier
Poverty and inequality across Scotland remain stubbornly persistent and have been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
We need strong action to tackle the deep rooted causes of this problem. These often emerge early in life and one of the starkest examples is the widening attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils in our schools. At the current rate of progress it will take 35 years to close this gap. That isn't good enough.
The Liberal Democrats championed the pupil premium at a UK level which sees extra money for the poorest pupils. We want to see much more investment in the attainment fund which is the Scottish equivalent. Taking the example of countries performing better than Scotland, we look to give all children a fair start in life by investing in early years provision and starting school at 7 years old.
Government alone can't overcome these issues. This week I had a meeting with the wonderful Bridges Project in Musselburgh which helps young people on the brink of failure in education or after leaving school. Projects like this need full government backing. We need to elect politicians who understand, value and are prepared to fund the third sector.
Of course education is not the only field where reform is essential. Our welfare state is not fit for purpose and we would seek to pilot a Universal Basic Income for everyone in Scotland.
We also need to tackle Scotland's twin forgotten crises - drug deaths and mental health - both of which disproportionately impact deprived communities. Mental health waiting times remain persistently high. We need real investment in community services. Scotland has Europe's worst drug death rate, a figure which should shame us all. We must move away from thoughtlessly gaoling offenders and invest in rehab services which have been decimated under successive SNP governments.
Liberal Democrats would push for ringfencing 15% of the health budget for these services.