To govern is to serve. For too long have workers throughout Scotland have been subject to a Conservative Government that neither serves their communities nor aligns with their values. There is a genuine prospect that we are a year or so away from changing this.

While the Tories flounder, Labour continues to hold a strong lead in the polls. In the critical so-called red wall seats, Labour has a strong lead including on the economy and immigration as well as on policy issues where it traditionally does well, such as the NHS.

It seems clear that, despite this lead, Labour strategists are defensively seeking to shore up that position. There have always been a number of issues which the Tories have thought to be their electoral ‘trump’ cards. They have shamelessly, over generations, used disinformation to foment fears over migrants and refugees in order to present Labour as weak.

Welfare is another. They have consistently fostered the fake image of the feckless ‘benefits scrounger’ which continues to resonate electorally in some parts of the country. There seems little doubt that Tory strategists are gearing up to present Labour as the party which will fail to balance the books by showering confetti on the ‘undeserving poor’.

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Surely then, the latest Labour policy U-turn can be explained by this concern. It certainly can't be because they really believe that 'there is no money' or that they feel it to be morally acceptable to say that hundreds of thousands of children should go hungry to punish a mythical sub-set of the British population for having too many children.

The two-child cap is a pernicious, cruel and downright reprehensible policy that actively inflicts poverty on our most in need. It’s a policy the STUC wholly rejects. It has been proven to contribute to child poverty, harm parental health and impact children’s well-being. That’s before we even start on the unspeakably cruel ‘rape clause’ impacts of the cap, forcing survivors to actively recount and prove their experiences in order to access state support.

This debate is taking place at a time when we have low levels of unemployment. That this has not translated to economic growth can be explained by the scandal of low pay. Workers across Scotland and the UK have taken industrial action, in most cases successfully, precisely because they cannot afford not to.

Too many jobs are paid at a rate that makes it hard for anyone to prosper, let alone those in households with children. Compared to other countries we still have massive barriers to work for parents which particularly impacts upon the ability of women to secure decently paid work.

Still, in case it needs said again, a large proportion of the children who will suffer from a continuation of the two-child benefit cap will be from working households. This is not in any way to seek to distinguish between the children of those who work and those who are unable to do so. We want all of our children to have the basic human right to prosper.

Even if we were able to put aside the simple cruelty of the policy aside, which of course we shouldn’t, the two-child benefit cap is very bad economics. It would cost £1.3 billion a year to lift it at a time when UK billionaires have increased their wealth by £60 billion during a cost-of-living crisis. It’s worth every single penny.

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250,000 children are currently directly affected by cap, but with the inevitable consequences of the cap for whole households, we can say that over one million children are negatively affected. That number will grow every year that this policy continues.

We all know that poverty reduces life chances and that reduced life chances are bad for the economy. Add to this the fact that our ageing population will require hundreds of thousands of productive younger workers over the next generation and you come out with a policy which is not just cruel, but stupid.

What this debacle continues to reinforce is that poverty is a political choice. Politicians, especially Labour ones, should be tasked with reducing it, not embedding it. In refusing to, even at this stage, pledge to just examine even just the remotest possibility of scrapping the cap speaks to a dismaying lack of vision from any incoming Labour Government.

People look to their politicians and political class for leadership. To their credit, we have seen a range of Scottish Labour MSPs stepping up to the plate to call out their UK counterparts, whilst Anas Sarwar has been clear on Scottish Labour’s continuing opposition to the cap.

This piece of heinous Tory engineering is actively harming the children of Scotland. The STUC hasn’t hesitated in calling out the Scottish Government for not doing enough to protect those in poverty during this cost-of-living crisis. We have rejected any suggestion that ‘there is no money’ here.

Our recent tax research demonstrated that the Scottish Government could raise £3.3 billion of extra revenue if they had the courage of their convictions. The top five richest families in Scotland alone accumulated £2.3 billion extra in 2023. That’s £2.3 billion added wealth on top of their already accumulated £18.26 billion collective. There is wealth in Scotland just as much as there is exorbitant wealth in the UK. Tax it. Redistribute it. Put it to good use.

Whilst they could and should seek to do this, the limits on the fiscal powers of the Scottish Parliament mean that UK-wide wealth redistribution continues to be a fundamental necessity. We need an alternative path rooted in fairness, justice, compassion and dignity. We need any incoming Labour government to be unashamedly anti-poverty with the plan and vision to invest in our public services and create decent jobs in public and private sectors.

The case for austerity was always flawed. A decade of falling wages, sluggish growth and a country ill-prepared to meet the challenges of the pandemic are proof of that. Instead of playing into the Tory narrative of counterposing prudence with reducing social inequality, it is Labour’s task to show that decency and prosperity can go hand in hand.

Roz Foyer is General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress