Nicola Sturgeon has described a rise in child poverty as “deeply regrettable” as she defended her government’s record on the issue.
The First Minister argued the welfare policies of the UK Government were to blame for the 10,000 increase revealed in new official figures.
Both Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard and Scottish Greens parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone asked about child poverty at First Minister’s Questions.
They called for the Scottish Government to bring forward plans an income supplement scheduled for 2022.
Brexit chaos is distracting attention away from “heartbreaking decisions” facing families, Mr Leonard warned, pointing out new statistics showed half a million food parcels were handed out in Scotland in the last 18 months.
Mr Leonard added: “This morning’s figures show that 10,000 more children in Scotland are living in poverty, that means almost quarter of a million children in Scotland are living in poverty today.
“No wonder Dr Mary McCloud from the anti-poverty project Menu for Change said the Scottish Government must ‘give people living on cups of tea and thin air’ more to sustain them.”
Referencing the pledge of an income supplement for low-paid families, he added: “Children in poverty really can’t wait until 2022 so First Minister, can you tell us why are you making children wait?”
Ms Johnstone also urged the income supplement to be brought forward.
She said: “While we continue to call for an end of the mean-spirited, punitive welfare policies of UK Government, it’s clear that the Scottish Government must do all that it can to raise the living standards of our poorest families.
“But is the First Minister really saying that low-income families in Scotland will have to wait until 2022 before the Scottish Government introduces a desperately-needed income supplement?”
In response to the Labour leader, Ms Sturgeon said: “Child poverty, if we look at the figures from this morning, has increased – and I think that is deeply regrettable.
“We know why it’s increasing, and that’s because of the welfare cuts and the austerity being imposed by Tory governments.
“Child poverty and poverty generally in Scotland is too high but it’s important to note that it’s lower in Scotland than either England or Labour-run Wales.
“Nonetheless, it is because child poverty is too high that we are firstly taking steps to mitigate the impact of Tory welfare cuts.
“It’s why we are taking steps to invest in reducing poverty and it’s why we are committed to the introduction of an income supplement but one that lifts more children out of poverty by making sure we target that resource to those who most need it.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “We are doing the work to make sure we have a policy that can be delivered, a policy that can be paid for and a policy that lifts the maximum number of children out of poverty.”