Oxfam Scotland reaction to announcement of Poverty and Inequality Commission

The First Minister has announced the creation of a new Poverty and Inequality Commission following two years of campaigning by Oxfam Scotland and our supporters.

In 2015, Oxfam Scotland called for an Inequality Commission to be created because it is increasingly recognised that economic inequality in Scotland is high and creates a significant barrier to poverty reduction.

In April 2017 we released our recommendations for how the Commission should be designed to maximise its impact.

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland welcomed the announcement, saying: “If we are to face up to the entrenched challenges of poverty and inequality, this Commission must offer robust, transparent, and independent scrutiny of policies and progress in Scotland, whilst proposing stretching new measures.

“Today’s announcement provides a solid foundation to drive forward the work of reducing poverty and economic inequality in Scotland, both of which are at worryingly high levels. It is particularly welcome that the Poverty and Inequality Commission outlined by the First Minister reflects many of Oxfam Scotland’s recommendations – we hope the newly appointed Chair will now revisit these in the coming days to strengthen the Commission further still.

“The people of Scotland as well as all parties in the Scottish Parliament have consistently stated deep unease about economic inequality; it’s vital the Commission harnesses this concern to help tackle the problem head on.”

The Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee recently voted at Stage 2 of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill for the Poverty and Inequality Commission to have a statutory role in scrutinising delivery of the child poverty targets.

The Commission announced by the Scottish Government is currently non-statutory and is for two years initially – though it is welcome that the Scottish Government says it will “work to a timeline which is consistent with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, Fairer Scotland ambitions and Child Poverty Bill targets.

Livingstone added: “Members of the Social Security Committee deserve significant credit for their scrutiny of the Child Poverty Bill and we believe this has led to the creation of a more ambitious Poverty and Inequality Commission.

“It is clear that further discussions are now needed to ensure strong scrutiny of the child poverty targets whilst retaining all that is good in the Scottish Government’s planned Commission.”

Oxfam Scotland believes the Scottish Government’s proposal should be strengthened in a number of areas – including: the frequency of reporting on economic inequality; the need for the Commission to set its own work-streams entirely independently of ministers; greater clarity over the Commission’s ability to call witnesses; and the need for the Commission’s scrutiny role to extend beyond the child poverty targets to include measures of economic inequality.

For more information please contact Lisa Stewart, Oxfam Scotland Campaigns and Communications Manager, on 0141 285 8874/07470 411531 or lstewart1@oxfam.org.uk