The Land of Lone Parents
The Sunday Times of Dec. 17, 2006
RISING benefits have been blamed for a dramatic increase in the number of one-parent families in Scotland,
which now has more single mothers than almost any other country in Europe.
Official figures show that the number of lone-parent households has increased by 17% from 133,130 in
1999 to 155,230 this year.
According to Scottish executive statistics, the number of one-parent households has risen to 11,260 in
Edinburgh, 6,630 in Aberdeen and 5,550 in Dundee. More than 40% of families in Glasgow are now headed by
single parents. Lone-parent households now account for more than 10% of Scottish families.
A recent EU-wide study found that 8% of British households were headed by single mothers, compared
with 5% in Ireland, 4% in Germany, 2% in France and 0.4% in Italy. Only Northern Ireland and Wales
have a higher proportion of one-parent families.
The latest Scottish figures appear to support the findings of the European study by Libertad Gonzalez,
a Barcelona academic, who concluded that the number of single-parent households is directly related to
the level of state benefits. She claimed that for every £675 in benefits offered to lone parents by the
state, the number of single mothers rises by 2%.
In 1994 a single mother in Britain with two children who worked for about 18 hours a week could expect
to receive more than £2,000 a year in benefits. By 2001 the figure had risen to £3,500. Scotland’s
teenage pregnancy rate, the highest in Europe, and its liberal divorce laws are also believed to have
fuelled the trend.
David Mundell, the Tory shadow Scottish secretary, said more generous benefits for lone parents under
Labour had promoted a growing culture of dependency. “I don’t think it is right or acceptable the tax
and benefit system should positively promote separation, as it does at the moment,” he said. “The
disintegration of individual families is costing the country billions of pounds.”