Politicians Unite Over Poverty Stigma

10 March 2016, 08:45 | Updated: 10 March 2016, 08:48

The leaders of Scotland's five main political parties have pledged to help tackle the stigma faced by those living in poverty.

All five have signed up to a campaign by the Poverty Alliance which aims to end the use of language that can "reinforce negative stereotypes'' about the problem.

The Stick Your Labels initiative, which has been backed by more than 25 organisations across Scotland including councils, the Church of Scotland and voluntary sector bodies, also commits organisations to set out what they will do to help tackle poverty.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Labour's Kezia Dugdale, Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Conservatives, Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie have now given the campaign their backing.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: "When we speak to people experiencing poverty, they almost always raise the stigma of living on a low income and the judgement they can face from others.

"Attitudes towards the welfare state have hardened over the past thirty years and we have seen an increase in the blaming of individuals for their poverty.

"It is therefore heartening to have all five party leaders in Scotland show their support for the campaign and to commit to never using stigmatising language.

"The existence of poverty should shame us all and we all have a role to play in not only tackling poverty but also in combating the stigma that surrounds it.''

Ms Sturgeon said: "It is not acceptable that so many people in Scotland still live in poverty and tackling poverty remains one of our top priorities.

"Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and these values are at the heart of our approach to new powers over social security.

"With the delivery of new powers in Scotland, we have a real opportunity to transform the service people receive and to provide the protection and support that individuals need.''

Ms Dugdale said: "A key part of lifting people out of poverty is the language we all use in political debate.

"The hundreds of thousands of children in Scotland affected by poverty aren't responsible for their circumstances.

"In this election everybody must set out the positive steps we will take to give everybody the chance to get on in life, not stigmatise those living in poverty.''

Ms Davidson said: "The fight against poverty takes many forms and I'm happy to support the Stick Your Labels campaign.

"Negative attitudes towards people in poverty must be challenged and it's heartening to see so many organisations joining together to do just that.''

Mr Rennie pledged the Lib Dems would "oppose unfair and unjust characterisations of people in poverty''.

He added: "Our package of measures to tackle poverty will be effective and long-term by giving people the tools to escape poverty and protecting those who need help in difficult times.''

Mr Harvie said: "Given that Scotland is one of the most unequal countries in Europe, it's disgraceful that the media and right-wing politicians still try to convince us that people living in poverty only have themselves to blame.

"Poverty is caused by a broken and oppressive system, and by changing that system we can achieve a fundamentally more equal society.''