Generation of young people 'failed by Sturgeon' during leadership

A generation of young people was ‘absolutely failed by Sturgeon’ during her time as Scottish First Minister, Children’s Commissioner says

  • Bruce Adamson said people are no better off than when his tenure began in 2017
  • Read more: Humza Yousaf ‘ties himself in knots over Nicola Sturgeon’ 

Nicola Sturgeon ‘absolutely’ failed young people during her time as First Minister, the Children’s Commissioner has said.

In a ‘devastatingly brutal’ assessment of her record in office, Bruce Adamson laid bare a litany of ‘real failures’.

Opponents also said that the former SNP leader has ‘failed a generation of Scottish children’.

Outgoing commissioner Mr Adamson said that children are no better off than when his six-year tenure began in 2017.

There were ‘real questions’, he said, around why promises made by Ms Sturgeon’s government to tackle inequality and close the attainment gap between pupils from affluent and deprived areas had not been kept. 

Former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrives in the lobby of the Scottish Parliament

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, appears before the Equalities and Human Rights Committee

He added he has ‘not seen anything’ to suggest the new First Minister Humza Yousaf will improve Scots children’s rights.

Ms Sturgeon stated she wanted to be judged on her record of eradicating the gulf in attainment between the richest and poorest pupils.

She said it was her ‘defining mission’ and promised to close it ‘completely’ by 2026. But the Scottish Government’s own figures revealed the gap was growing before she stepped down. Asked yesterday if he thought Ms Sturgeon had failed, Mr Adamson said: ‘Absolutely.’

Asked by the BBC if children were better off now than when his tenure began, he replied: ‘No, they’re not. We need to do a lot better.’

He added: ‘We have to focus on the children’s right to all of the things they need to thrive. So things like an adequate standard of living: do all children in Scotland have a safe warm home, good nutritious food, the right clothes to wear? Do they have access to the highest attainable standard of health, including mental health?

‘There are really big questions around that and education, which develops you to your fullest potential.’

‘When the Government’s making decisions around things like funding – and we’ve had discussions about things like free school meals, we’ve had discussions around mental health counselling in schools – there’s some real failures there.’ The latest figures on attainment show the gulf between S3 pupils from the wealthiest and most deprived backgrounds has grown from 12.2 per cent in 2018-19 to 14.7 per cent.

Mr Adamson was also scathing about Mr Yousaf’s opposition to universal free school meals in favour of a more targeted approach.

First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf in the main chamber during First Minster’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood

The commissioner said: ‘Making it universal is a really powerful way of ensuring that all children can come and there’s no stigma about who’s getting it and who’s not, who’s paying for it and who’s not, and we ensure that all children get that one good nutritious meal a day that we know is so essential.

‘The fact we’ve got children in Scotland going hungry at the moment is hugely concerning.’

He added: ‘The new First Minister made some big promises before becoming First Minister, but we’ve not seen anything on delivering those and I’m really disappointed he didn’t mention children’s rights in his big vision for Scotland statement to parliament.’

The ‘year and a half of prevarication and delay’ from the Scottish Government about incorporating the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law was also condemned by Mr Adamson.

Tory children and young people spokesman Meghan Gallacher said: ‘It’s clear from the commissioner’s testimony Nicola Sturgeon has failed a generation of Scottish children. This was a devastatingly brutal assessment.’

Labour MSP Martin Whitfield, a former teacher, said: ‘Humza Yousaf needs to stop patting his broken party on the back and start working to improve the lives of young people.’

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: ‘The new First Minister must completely reboot the SNP’s agenda and acknowledge that from the age of criminal responsibility to the attainment gap, his party has comprehensively failed children and young people.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers are ‘committed to making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up’.

The spokesman added: ‘The UNCRC Bill is a critical piece of legislation that will help respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights and ministers are determined to bring the Bill back to parliament for reconsideration as soon as practicable.’

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