Willie Rennie on poverty

Written by Staff reporter on 26 December 2016 in Inside Politics

The first of Holyrood's Q&A on poverty with the party leaders is with Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie

Willie Rennie - Holyrood

As a politician, how does it make you feel passing a person begging on the street?

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats: Seeing someone out on the street, especially during the holiday season is always sad to see. However, it gives me a wee kick to make sure politicians like me are doing all they can to make sure we see fewer people having to beg on the streets.

What’s more important - tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?

What's important is that all three are connected that you cannot substitute one for the other. Making sure we have a social security system in place that tackles all three must be the priority of any government so that everyone in society has the chance to get on in life, especially at Christmas.

Can the Child Poverty Bill’s aims happen without taxing people more?

If we are going to be serious about tackling inequality and poverty then we have to be honest with ourselves that taxation is going to be required. However, any taxation must be done progressively so that everyone pays their fair share and that every penny raised is used as effectively as possible. 

Are targets really a useful way to tackle poverty?

Targets are only useful if they mean something and lead to actual change. Setting unambitious targets that won’t change much isn’t going to help solve the problem for the long term effectively.  

Do the proposed targets for levels of child poverty represent an acceptable number of children in poverty?

Any child in poverty is unacceptable and any government should be working towards eradicating poverty altogether. Obviously, that is quite a challenge but we should set ourselves to be that ambitious. ​

What is the best method for defining child poverty?

Any child that isn’t given the best opportunity in life is a child that has been let down by the Government. We need to make sure that the services we provide support children who are disadvantaged so that they can achieve whatever they want in life. 

How should Scotland’s new powers over social security be used?

New social security powers should be used so that the people of Scotland benefit from them. The SNP now have the chance to create a bespoke welfare system and they should grab the opportunity and not let it sail away. 

How can childcare expansion avoid pushing more women into low-paid jobs and having a negative impact on attachment and attainment?

We need to make sure that all families have the support they need so that both parents and children have the best chance to get on in life. That includes expanding childcare provision but also by having transformational investment in education which will give our children the right start in life.

Despite best efforts, insecure and poorly paid jobs are commonplace. Is it time to get tougher with employers?

We need to make sure employers are paying their employees decent wages. The Scottish Government has a role to encourage companies to pay their employees fairly. However, we are seeing companies like Amazon who are in receipt of Scottish Government grants who don’t pay their employees the proper living wage. 

Given most people can’t afford a house at 80 per cent of market price, isn’t it time to redefine ‘affordable housing’?

Yes.

Is Christmas becoming too expensive?

People should have fun but also should not spend too much especially when they cannot afford it.

Black Friday. What’s all that about?

It's a sales technique. Nothing more.

What film do you always watch at Christmas and why?

The Grinch.

What’s your new year’s resolution?

WR: I am not telling you - in case I break it!

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