HALF the members of the independent body advising the Scottish Government on poverty have resigned, leaving it in disarray as Humza Yousaf tries to tackle the problem.

The chair and three of the seven members of the Poverty and Inequality Commission quit last month, it has emerged.

Commissioners Linda Bamford, Lindsay Graham and Shona Stephen handed in their notice on August 9 after a “loss of confidence” in chair Bill Scott.

Mr Scott resigned on “health grounds” two days later.

The three commissioners told Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville they had been nominated for reappointment by Mr Scott without their knowledge in the summer.

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That led to an “an extremely stressful and anxious period”, they said in correspondence newly published by the Scottish Parliament’s social security committee.

“Our engagement with the Chair to recover this difficult situation has resulted in a loss of confidence and trust in the Chair,” they said in identical letters to the Committee.

“After several subsequent meetings with our Sponsor Team, and due to the professionally compromised and untenable situation we were put in, my fellow commissioners and I tendered our resignations to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice on 9 August 2023.” 

They also revealed that, while Ms Somerville had accepted the resignations, she was obliging them to work a three month notice period, otherwise the Commission would be inquorate.

Under the law, the body must have a minimum of four members plus a chair, but without the three and Mr Scott it would only have four commissioners.

Mr Scott has also been given a three month notice period.

Mr Somerville admitted the situation was “stressful for all concerned”, but said she could not breach the law by accepting immediate resignations.

The departures were first reported byu the Daily Record, hours before Mr Yousaf delivers his first Programme for Government at Holyrood.

He is expected to put measures aimed at tackling poverty at the heart of the package.

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Established in 2019, the Commission provides independent advice and scrutiny to Scottish Ministers, including recommending action to cut child poverty.

It can also gather evidence, carry out research, and prepare and publish reports.

Ms Bamford, a former nurse, is convener of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland.

Lindsay Graham OBE is the founder of two charities for families affected by disability. 

Shona Stephen is the chief executive of Queen’s Cross Housing Association in Glasgow.

Mr Scott was a policy advisor at Inclusion Scotland for 15 years and previously worked for the Scottish Socialist Party at Holyrood.

A Poverty and Inequality Commission spokesperson said: “The Commission thanks the chair and three Commissioners who are standing down for their valuable time and expertise in helping to reduce poverty and inequality in Scotland.

“It is not appropriate for us to comment on personal decisions and the Commission can’t comment on individual nominations or reappointments.

“In order for the Commission to conduct its business there needs to be a minimum of four Commissioners plus the Chair and that is why the Commissioners have been asked to work a three-month notice period, so short-term Commissioners can be appointed.”