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Claim one in four Scots children is in poverty is True

First minister Humza Yousaf set out the Scottish Government’s priorities for the next year on Tuesday. 

After his statement to the Scottish Parliament, rival party leaders criticised the SNP’s record in government, with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar arguing that it had failed to tackle poverty across Scotland. 

“One in four children is in poverty on the SNP’s watch”.

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it True.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotland's impartial fact check project


Child poverty in Scotland is measured in both absolute and relative terms. They are measured on three-year rolling averages to make results more robust. 

Relative poverty is the most commonly used. This includes households who earn less than 60 per cent of the middle income in the UK, which was £505 per week after housing costs in 2019-22. It is meant to show how well the incomes of the poorest are keeping up with the growth of incomes as a whole. 

This is the measure that Sarwar was pointing to when he made the claim that one in four children are in poverty in Scotland. 

Children are more likely to be in poverty than adults in Scotland. The latest statistics estimated that 24 per cent of children were living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2019-2022. This is about 250,000 children in Scotland. 

Housing costs include rent, mortgage payments and other essential payments. An estimated 69 per cent of children in relative poverty come from working households, according to the latest statistics.

Twenty-one per cent of Scottish children were found to be in absolute poverty. 

A household is in absolute poverty when its income is below 60 per cent of the UK’s middle income in 2010-11, adjusted for inflation. This shows whether the poorest households are seeing their incomes rising in real terms. 

How have child poverty levels changed in Scotland?

Relative child poverty fell consistently between the late 1990s and 2010-13, reaching a low of 21 per cent. Since then, child poverty rates began to increase slowly to 25 per cent in 2018-21. There was a slight reduction in the latest figures to 24 per cent. 

Since the SNP entered government, there has been limited progress on relative and absolute poverty among children. Relative poverty rates were at 24 per cent in 2007-10, when the party was first elected and they remain  at the same level in the most recent statistics. 

Absolute poverty was sitting at 24 per cent in 2007-10, and latest figures show a reduction to 21 per cent. 

How do child poverty rates vary across the UK? 

Scotland’s rate of child poverty is lower than the UK average. Across the UK, child poverty is measured yearly. According to the latest figures for 2021-22, 29 per cent of children were in relative poverty and 23 per cent were in absolute poverty.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: True

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar’s claim that one in four children are in poverty is accurate, according to the latest Scottish Government statistics. There has been limited progress made on child poverty rates across different measures over the SNP’s time in government. 

This claim is True

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles.

All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here.

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