LEADING children's doctors have called for more action on poverty in an attempt to reduce the "relatively high" number of youngsters dying in Scotland each year.

Medics from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in Scotland claim inequality and deprivation are key factors in the country's child mortality level and they have urged the Scottish Government to make a series of policy changes in a bid to cut it.

A report by the body shows between 350 and 450 children die in Scotland every year, with the majority of deaths in those under one year old. About 20 of these are directly linked to smoking during pregnancy, while suicide and road traffic accidents have also been identified as key contributors.

The report outlines 19 recommendations for the Scottish Govern­ment, including mandatory mental health training for all healthcare professionals, comprehensive sex education in schools and 20mph speed limits in built-up areas, as well as a graduated licensing scheme for younger drivers.

Dr Peter Fowlie, the Royal College's officer for Scotland, said: "Without doubt, some of these deaths can be prevented by better healthcare - swifter treatment and doctors being able to spot a seriously sick child early and ensuring they get the right care.

"For others, there needs to be broader public policies that target the most at-risk groups.

"So we need to see some practical policies in areas such as improving education for young mothers on the dangers of smoking during pregnancy and raising awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding, because pre-term birth and low birth weight are crucial risk factors for premature death during infancy and disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged in society."

The study showed more than 11,000 Scottish babies are affected by smoking during pregnancy each year and it is thought to cause an average of 20 deaths annually.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health urged the Scottish Government to continue with measures already in place to target this, as well as the wider issue of smoking.

The report also highlighted that there were 131 suicides in children and young people aged between five and 19 in Scotland between 2009 and 2012 - with people in the most deprived areas three times as likely to kill themselves as those in the least deprived areas.

The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said the report highlighted the urgent need for further anti-poverty measures from the UK and Scottish Governments.

John Dickie, the group's Scotland director, said: "The fact that growing up in poverty so significantly increases your chances of dying as a child is a stark and shocking reminder of the urgency with which government at every level must act to prevent child poverty.

"The UK Government needs to urgently review the cuts to benefits and tax credits that are set to drive up to 100,000 more children into poverty in Scotland alone."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We welcome any research that can support our work to help prevent future child deaths. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health was represented on a working group that looked at the issue of preventing child deaths and we continue to value their input.

"Earlier this year we accepted the recommendation to introduce a new system to make a review of every child's death standard practice across Scotland. The implementation of these reviews will ensure the circumstances of preventable childhood deaths are thoroughly examined and any lessons for gov­ernment, health boards, schools or other organisations can be learned.

"In addition, the Scottish Government is already addressing many of the wide-ranging recommendations in the RCPCH report."