HUMZA Yousaf has said “every penny and pound” of future Scottish Government commitments will be examined to ensure it is targeted at tackling poverty.

Speaking at an anti-poverty summit in Edinburgh, the First Minister said every Scottish Government department has been asked to review upcoming policies to ensure they are better targeted at those on the lowest incomes.

Speaking after the summit, Yousaf admitted the conversations had been “uncomfortable” at times, but vowed his ministers would seek to go further to tackle poverty in Scotland.

He had earlier indicated that the policy of expanding free school meals to all pupils may be under review.

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Yousaf previously told the Daily Record: “I’ve got a 14-year-old now. Should people be paying for her free school meals when I earn a First Minister’s salary?

“I don’t think that’s the right way to use that money. A better way is to target those that need it absolutely the most.”

Speaking at the summit, Yousaf said the Scottish Government had a manifesto commitment for the expansion of free school meals.

He said: “I think it’d be fair, though, for people to expect the Government to do a bit of evidential work, get that evidential basis to look at whether or not there’s more we can do to target our spend towards those in the lowest income households, ensure they get the support the quickest.

“That’s a piece of work I’ve asked every single Cabinet secretary to do right across the board.

The National: Yousaf said that poverty levels in Scotland are 'unacceptable'Yousaf said that poverty levels in Scotland are 'unacceptable' (Image: PA)

“Any pound that we spend, any penny that we spend in the future, are we ensuring that we got the evidential basis there, to make sure it’s helping us to reduce poverty?”

Yousaf said he would maintain existing universal benefits, such as free tuition fees, but attacked Labour’s position on this, saying: “Keir Starmer is rolling back and doing a Nick Clegg on tuition fees in England.

“I’m sure they will suffer at the ballot box as a result.”

It comes as SNP Westminster group leader Stephen Flynn pointed out during PMQs that the SNP are now the only major party in the House of Commons who support the abolition of tuition fees.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has hit out at the suggestion the policy of universal free school meals could be abandoned.

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Andrea Bradley, EIS general secretary, said: “Reneging on a commitment to free school meals would be a massive and profoundly damaging mistake which would betray young people living in poverty across Scotland, and would be a particularly hard blow to families with school-aged children as they continue the hard struggle with the cost-of-living crisis.”

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth had given a “welcome commitment on the further rollout of universal free school meals” to Holyrood last week.

Lennon tweeted: “Poverty doesn’t end at the primary school gates; Humza needs to hold his nerve and continue the rollout.”

The comments came as Yousaf spoke about “targeting help” at Wednesday’s summit, also hinting there could be future tax rises for higher earners to help boost support for low-income Scots.

Yousaf told the summit: “We must be bold in considering future tax decisions. Tough choices will need to be made about existing budgets, and we need to consider whether targeting help is the way forward when money is so tight.”

The First Minister said he had called the summit, which brought together anti-poverty campaigners, academics and people “at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis and with direct experience of poverty”, so the Government could consider what more needs to be done.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton and Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie were also in attendance, with the session chaired by Dr Linda Bauld.

Yousaf also said that poverty in Scotland is at “unacceptable levels”.

“I’m determined that the government I lead will do absolutely everything in its powers, with limited powers but we should push to go further with those powers, in order to substantially shift that dial on child poverty in particular,” he said.

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Admitting that public finances are “under strain” he insisted the Scottish Government would work to do what they can with the powers at their disposal.

“While we have taken absolutely important steps to address that poverty, there is a recognition by me and certainly all of us within the government that we can and should go further,” Yousaf added.

The EIS said it is “deeply concerned” about whether the First Minister is now “suggesting a roll-back on the Scottish Government’s commitment to the delivery of free school meals for all young people”.

Bradley said that suggesting means-testing of free school meals is preferable for financial reasons was “misunderstanding the problem entirely”.

She said: “A key principle of universal provision of free school meals for all young people is about removing the stigma of free entitlement, to ensure that the young people who need free meals the most feel completely comfortable in accepting them.”