Shocking Rise in Schoolgirl Births Sparks Political Fury; High-Profile Executive Campaigns Do Nothing to Stem Growth of Teenage Pregnancies

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Byline: GAVIN WILSON

A WORRYING increase in the number of 13 and 14-year-old girls falling pregnant in Scotland provoked a major political row last night.

MSPs said the figures showed the Scottish Executive's high-profile campaign to cut teenage conception was failing to target the country's youngest and most vulnerable teenagers.

Although pregnancy rates among all teenagers is falling slowly, the latest statistics show conception among 13 and 14-year-olds is rising again.

The number of 13-year-olds who fell pregnant rose from 20 in 1999 to 34 in 2000 - a 70 per cent increase. Pregnancies among 14-year-old girls went up from 169 to 177 (4.7 per cent) during the same period.

Fifty per cent more girls aged 13 are getting pregnant than ten years ago, confirming fears that children are having unprotected sex at an increasingly young age.

The alarming figures come despite a string of expensive, high-profile campaigns designed to curb Scottish teenage pregnancy rates - among the worst in Western Europe.

Opposition MSPs said the Executive had 'almost no chance' of fulfilling its pledge to cut pregnancies in girls aged 13 to 15 by 20 per cent by 2010.

Conservative health spokesman Mary Scanlon said: 'This a very worrying figure, not only in terms of teenage pregnancies but also it raises alarming questions about the threat of sexually transmitted diseases.

'The Executive has been in power for almost five years and, despite millions spent on advertising campaigns, the message clearly isn't getting through to the people most at risk.

'Vast sums of public money have been spent to produce precisely the opposite effect that was intended. It is a shocking waste.' The SNP health spokesman Nicola Sturgeon said the rise in pregnancy among 13 and 14-year-olds was 'deeply disturbing' when rates should be decreasing, and called for sex education classes for younger pupils.

She said: 'These figures clearly show there is absolutely no room for complacency. They highlight the need for far more responsible sex education lessons in our schools. This has to be age-sensitive. Children know about sex at younger and younger ages nowadays. …