POVERTY rates in Scotland have started to rise and more needs to be done to tackle deprivation, a report has found.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) called for a “focused commitment from employers, housing providers and public services – both national and local”.

Figures show more than one million Scots struggle with poverty, including 240,000 children, 640,000 working-age adults and 150,000 pensioners.

The foundation’s Poverty in Scotland 2019 report – published at the start of Challenge Poverty Week – warned the problem is increasing.

It said: “Overall, poverty in Scotland was lower in 2015–18 (the most recent period for which we have data) than it was in 1999–2002 at the start of devolution, but since 2009–12, poverty rates have started to shift upwards.”

The think tank said plans to introduce a new social security benefit called the Scottish Child Payment, phased in from late 2020, will go some way to helping Scotland meet its challenging child poverty targets.

Meanwhile, poverty rates measured after housing costs are much lower in Scotland than in the rest of the UK overall.

But it insisted: “Action is needed on all fronts and must be enough to rewrite the rules of the game for people living in poverty in Scotland.

“Poverty is at the root of many of society’s deepest-set issues, from the attainment gap in schools to severe health inequalities and even declining life expectancy.

“This is simply unacceptable. As a society we can choose to make different decisions that will change people’s lives unequivocally.”

Legislation passed in 2017 outlined a number of child poverty targets for Scotland – including that by 2030, less than 10 per cent should be living in relative poverty.

Jim McCormick, associate director for Scotland at the JRF, said: “Over the last two decades, cheaper rents and a larger social rented sector in Scotland have been key to unlocking opportunities for families to achieve a decent life.

“But this success is showing signs of unravelling and cannot be taken for granted.”

SNP Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said she welcomed the foundation’s “recognition of our bold commitment to reduce child poverty in Scotland”.

She added: “This comes after UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said Scotland is on a ‘very different trajectory’ than England when it comes to the social protection of our people.

“The Scottish Government invested over £1.4 billion to support low income households last year, including the £100 million we invest each year to mitigate the worst impacts of UK Government welfare changes.”

She said the new Scottish Child Payment has “rightly been described as game-changing”, while Scotland is also leading the way on affordable housing, with 87,000 affordable homes delivered.