Whatever the result of Thursday’s vote, Scotland will still have deep social problems to address and campaigners are urging both sides in the referendum debate to unite to tackle poverty.
As the referendum campaign enters its final few days the Poverty Alliance has called on all sides to maintain the passion and commitment that has been shown through the campaign and to turn it to finding lasting solutions to poverty and inequality in Scotland.
Throughout the referendum campaign issues of poverty and social justice have been central to the debates. Whether on issues of food poverty, low pay, unemployment or child poverty, all sides have stated that they are committed to making real change to create a more socially just Scotland.
On 19 September politicians and activists from both campaigns must begin to find ways of working together to bring people together and tackle poverty.
The referendum has shown that not only is there an appetite for social change, but that more people than ever want their voices to be heard. With more than 100,000 people registering to vote in the last month alone, we need to find ways to ensure that the democratic impulse that many people have experienced for the first time is sustained and turned into genuine grassroots democratic politics, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.
Whatever changes over the coming months and years we are calling now for all political leaders to commit to ensuring that the voices of those who are living in poverty, those who have been the subject of so much debate during the campaign, are genuinely involved and actively shape the new Scotland that will emerge.
A little over three weeks after the referendum the Poverty Alliance will be coordinating Challenge Poverty Week, which will take place from the 12 -18 October.
This will be a week of debates and action designed to show what has been done to tackle poverty. It will be one of the first opportunities after the referendum for campaigners to come together to show what they intend to do to address poverty now. We hope campaigners from both sides will get involved in Challenge Poverty Week and show the same enthusiasm for tackling poverty as they have for our constitutional future.
Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “This is an exciting time in Scottish politics and many people will consider the referendum to be the most important election of their lives.
“It is fantastic to see so many people registered to vote and I hope turnout will be high on the day.
“Poverty and social justice has been at the centre of the debate on independence and it been heartening to see so much debate about the type of Scotland we want to live.
“In 2012-13, 16 per cent of people in Scotland were living in poverty, more than 800,000. People on both sides of the debate have agreed that this is unacceptable and that we need to re-think our approach to tackling the problem, whether it is low benefit levels, unemployment or low pay. What the campaigns disagree on is how we best achieve this.
“It has become increasingly clear that the results will be close and it is important that people on both sides of the debate believe their voices will be heard regardless of the result. In particular we must ensure that the voices of those who are rarely heard, those people living in poverty, are taken seriously after the result of the referendum is known.
“Both campaigns must be prepared to set aside their differences and work together for a better Scotland, one where the blight of poverty is effectively tackled.”