THE First Minister has said eradicating child poverty is the “single most important objective” of his government, ahead of a speech today 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.

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Ahead of the statement, 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, Swinney will meet pupils at a new breakfast club in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

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.”

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Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater (above) said the Scottish Government must redouble its commitment to climate action in the statement

She said: "This is a really critical time for Scotland and our planet. From vital climate investment to a presumption against new oil and gas exploration, there can be no backtracking on delivering a greener and more sustainable future.

“When the Scottish Greens were in government we laid the groundwork for crucial progress on growing our renewables sector, restoring nature in our communities and transforming the way we heat our homes. It is essential that this work is continued and enhanced."

Alba Party Holyrood leader Ash Regan called on John Swinney to use cash freed up from the scrapping of the Bute House Agreement to fund free school meals for all school children. 

She said: "Thanks to the scrapping of the Bute House Agreement there is now money available to better focus on targeting poverty. Funding active travel is admirable but it’s not as important as putting a roof over people’s heads or ensuring children don’t go hungry at school.

“And we know the cost of the school day only gets more expensive as children go to high school so extending the policy further must be an aspiration within the life of this Parliament - but for now it’s time for the promise of free school meals for primary school children to be delivered by John Swinney’s Government.”

Scottish LibDem 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.”