At the beginning of December 2017, Alan Milburn’s Commission on Social Mobility and Child Poverty resigned en masse in despair. Since Brexit, progress on tackling one of the biggest challenges of our time has ground to a halt.
“I have little hope of the current (UK) government making the progress I believe is necessary to bring about a fairer Britain,” Milburn wrote in his letter of resignation to Theresa May.
Meanwhile in Scotland, the recently appointed Commission on Inequality and Poverty has begun a demanding two year project. The team, led by Douglas Hamilton is tasked with holding the Scottish Government to account on reducing child poverty. (Oxfam, who campaigned for a commission on inequality, has welcomed cross-party support for the project and stressed the need for independent scrutiny.)
Rhetoric and politics have a different tone north of the border. And Nicola Sturgeon has made a personal commitment to reducing inequality. But, as Alan Milburn told an Edinburgh audience almost three years ago, there is no room for complacency in Scotland.
Time to make room at the top
In this Sceptical Scot podcast we present an extract of Alan Milburn’s speech at a David Hume Institute seminar in March 2015. Launching the research report, The Elite of Scotland, he identifies the same obstacles to progress on either side of the border. Life at the top is dominated by the same privileged few.
Across the UK being born poor too often leads to a lifetime of poverty. Advantage and disadvantage are passed down the generations. The waste of talent is a national loss. The links between inequality and poverty tenacious, corrosive and endemic. “It’s not an English problem any more than it’s a Scottish one, it’s a problem for us all.”
You can hear Alan Milburn’s full speech on the David Hume Institute YouTube channel HERE. Download the Elite of Scotland report HERE. Now almost three years old, some figures have changed but not necessarily for the better (as both Carol Craig and Darren McGarvey have highlighted in posts here and in their new books). Child Poverty Action Group Scotland reports an increase in child poverty: from one in seven (quoted by Milburn in 2015) to one in four for 2016/17. Sceptical Scot looks forward to reviewing the work of the Scottish Commission over the next two years.
The DHI 2018 programme begins on 18 January when Nicola Sturgeon kicks off the annual Politicians and Professionals. The theme for this series is Scotland After Brexit.