David Stewart asks First Minister about poverty

A Labour MSP put the First Minister on the spot today by asking about a new study which suggested young people in the poorest parts of the country are three times more likely to die before their 25th birthday than those in the most affluent areas.

Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Social Inequality, asked Nicola Sturgeon for the Scottish Government’s response to the study.

He said: “Aberlour Trust, who sponsored the research, argue that ‘a bad start shouldn’t mean a bad end’.

“Professor Treanor, who carried out this research, emphasised the impact of poverty, across the whole of a child’s life – with links to housing, health inequalities and education – all areas where the Scottish Government has the power to take radical action.

“Does the First Minister share my view that a young person’s life expectancy should not depend on a post code lottery and that the solution is a major shift in policy to fight with vigour and fortitude the massive inequality between the rich and poor in society?”

The First Minister said in reply that the figures were “shocking” and were a major cause for concern blaming Tory welfare cuts and outlining the action the Scottish Government was taking to tackle the issue.

Afterwards Mr Stewart explained: ““These figures are a disgrace for Scotland and amount to a sad loss of life for our young people who should have so much to live for.

“Most of the deaths included suicides, drug and alcohol poisonings, falls and road traffic accidents as well as deaths resulting from neglect or maltreatment, assault and violence.

“A major reason for the higher incidence of early deaths was poverty and its impact across the whole of a child’s life – linked to housing, neighbourhoods, health inequalities, nutrition, outdoor space, education and access to activities as well as the stresses poverty caused families.

“We cannot afford to ignore research such as this and the Scottish Government must do more to tackle inequalities.

  • Prof Morag Treanor, of Heriot-Watt University, carried out the research for charity Aberlour. She said the results showed the “massive inequality” between rich and poor in Scotland. It showed young men and boys were far more likely to die before 25 than young women and girls.

The study analysed data from the National Records of Scotland on the causes of death from 2011 to 2017. In total there were 4,081 deaths across the seven-year period, excluding those who were less than a year old. The academic responsible for the report Prof Morag Treanor mapped the deaths against the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation

She found a rate of 0.21 deaths per 1,000 people among under 25s in the poorest areas compared with a rate of 0.07 in the richest.