Labour has demanded the Scottish Government “think about its moral responsibility” and take action to tackle poverty.
During a fiery FMQs, Richard Leonard urged the Government to urgently bring in an income for poorer families, address the two-child cap on tax credits and called for “deeds not words”.
Mr Leonard asked Deputy First Minister John Swinney: “While the Government has been delaying the income supplement, child poverty in Scotland has continued to rise. While the government has been offering up concepts, out in the real world more people are queuing up at food banks.
“Only yesterday a child poverty action group report produced by the IPPR (think-tank) concluded that the greatest reduction in poverty, relative to cost, of any single option is achieved by addressing the two-child cap.
“When will the Government at long last think about its moral responsibility? When will you finally use your powers to protect families in Scotland from the two-child cap?
“Or do you, John Swinney, still believe that families should be left to suffer in order to stop letting the Westminster government off the hook?”
Mr Swinney, standing in for Nicola Sturgeon as the First Minister attended D-Day commemorations, called suggestions that the Government was letting families suffer “an appalling accusation” and listed various schemes introduced to tackle poverty.
He said: “The Government is determined to do all it possibly can do to support individuals who live a life in poverty and to help them to work their way out that life of poverty, with active support from the Scottish Government.
“We will do more, we are determined to do more, but we have to recognise we are doing that against a whole series of pressures that come towards us arising out of welfare reform and the decisions taken by the UK Government that are deeply damaging to the lives of individuals within Scotland.”
On the issue of the income supplement, Mr Swinney said the Government would report to Parliament by the end of June with what, if any, action it would take.
The questions followed a report published by Scotland’s Poverty and Inequality Commission that called on the Scottish Government to “match ambitious words with equally ambitious action” when making economic decisions.
Mr Leonard quoted the commission’s chairman Douglas Hamilton, who said: “Despite a high level of commitment to make this new economic agenda work, very little has changed.
“There is still a lack of clarity around what inclusive growth means, making it all things to all people. As a result, it appears to be more of a concept than an approach that results in real change in people’s lives.”