Last night, we were discussing ‘The Impact of independence on the future of Scotland’s children’, at the University of Dundee as part of the Five Million Questions platform. Organised by Lorraine van Blerk and colleagues, the panel involved Aileen Campbell Minister for Children and Young People and MSP, Kezia Dugdale MSP, John McKendrick (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Kay Tisdall (Co-Director of CRFR, University of Edinburgh). In this blog, Kay shares key points and questions that arose from the discussion.
The biggest topic of the evening was child poverty and income inequality. With statistics showing that 20% of children in Scotland still living in poverty, and modelling forecasts showing a further 100,000 children will be pushed into poverty by 2020, the politicians debated about devolved and reserved powers, taxes and the potential impact (or not) of independence. But all could easily agree – as the audience applauded – that public will to address inequality was required: there is a lot of talking about addressing inequality and poverty in Scotland, in these times of discussing independence, but are we serious about redistribution?
Other questions from the audience ranged from: should cash benefits be replaced by vouchers? (no – stigmatising); will there be more money for schooling in an independent Scotland? (can we say for sure? But ongoing investment in prevention and beyond was essential); and what the ‘dream’ is for Scotland? As John McKendrick pointed out, the opportunity for 16 and 17 year olds to vote in September may open up even further possibilities to engage children and young people seriously.
Whatever the decision on the September referendum, these discussion are a refreshing and much needed opportunity to ‘think big’ and have participative, productive debates for the possibilities for Scotland. It allows us to realise what we can do under the existing devolved powers – and perhaps even more under ‘devo-max’ – as well as what an independent Scotland might do to further children’s human rights. Whatever decision, my suggestion is to keep that vision going and turn some of the best ideas into reality – can we truly make ‘Scotland the best place in the world to grow up in’?