Eradicating child poverty to be Scottish Government’s ‘most important objective’

First Minister John Swinney is to set out his government’s priorities in a statement at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney will set out his government’s priorities
Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney will set out his government’s priorities (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scotland’s First Minister has said eradicating child poverty is the “single most important objective” of his Government, ahead of a speech on Wednesday to set out his priorities.

In the statement at Holyrood, John Swinney is expected to commit the Scottish Government to eradicate child poverty and to work with business and industry to grow the economy, invest in net zero and deliver stronger public services.

He is also expected to emphasise the need for bold and collaborative action across the Parliament, focused on the priorities of people in Scotland.

Ahead of the statement, Mr Swinney said: “Eradicating child poverty will be the single-most important objective of my Government – and work in other priority areas will support and drive that mission.

“I intend to build on our record of delivery. Since 2007, economic growth, per head, and productivity have been stronger in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

“Scotland’s core A&E units are the best-performing in the UK, and measures such as our Scottish child payment are estimated to keep 100,000 children in Scotland out of relative poverty this year.

“I am acutely aware of the economic and fiscal realities that we face and I want to take forward measures that will help people and their families to get on in life: to enable the people of Scotland to live happier, healthier lives.”

“One of the benefits of long service in politics is having witnessed the Scottish Parliament when it is functioning at its very best. That happens when parties work constructively together.

“My Government will do everything in our power – working with members from across parties – to make child poverty a thing of the past.”

Before his statement, Mr Swinney met pupils at a new breakfast club in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

Speaking to journalists afterwards, he said his Government faces “significant financial headwinds”.

Asked if he thinks the 2030 child poverty target is still achievable, he said: “There will be challenges, of course, but what I want to make sure is that the whole power of Government is concentrated in a way that addresses this issue, that we use this as the driving saints of Government policy.”

Eradicating child poverty will contribute to economic growth, he said.

Members of the End Child Poverty coalition have written to the First Minister welcoming his commitment but also calling for more action.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition’s members in Scotland, John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “We are all hugely encouraged by the First Minister’s commitment to make eradicating child poverty his number one priority but that commitment needs to be backed by immediate action to boost incomes through increases to the Scottish child payment and to remove the barriers to work that so many parents still face.

“Existing commitments to expand funded childcare, close gender, disability and race employment gaps and deliver affordable family housing all need to be funded and built upon.

“With one in four children still locked in poverty and the 2030 child poverty target date looming, there is no time to lose.

“There is nothing inevitable about child poverty: with political will, sustained and deep commitment, and the right policies in place, it can be eradicated.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “My message to John Swinney is that I’m in politics to get things done and change our country for the better.

“It’s why I want to see him tackle the issues that matter to our communities, like cutting the atrocious waits for healthcare, lifting up Scottish education, getting the economy moving and stopping sewage dumping in our rivers.

“My party will hold his government to account where it falls short. For almost all of the last 17 years, John Swinney has sat round the Cabinet table of the Scottish Government as right-hand man to Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. The SNP’s failures in government are John Swinney’s failures in government.

“Now more than ever, people deserve a fair deal and people are choosing the Scottish Liberal Democrats to make that change happen.”