NICOLA Sturgeon is set to speak in the Scottish Parliament for the first time since her resignation.

The former first minister will take part in a debate on Wednesday relating to the announcements in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government (PfG).

The National understands that the Glasgow Southside MSP will focus her first contribution from the backbenches on child poverty.

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The Scottish Government debate, due to commence after 2pm is titled: “Equality within the 2023-24 Programme for Government”.

It comes after Sturgeon’s former deputy first minister John Swinney kicked off contributions in the debate on the PfG following First Minister Humza Yousaf’s statement.

The policy programme focused on a number of policy areas including an incoming pilot for a four day working week for civil servants, rent controls to be contained in the Housing Bill.

There were also commitments to expanding child care provision, free school meals for primary six and seven pupils, and lifting the income threshold on the Best Start programme, which provides funding for pregnant women to buy healthy food and milk.

The National:

Swinney told the chamber that he “especially welcomed” the “significant” commitments in relation to early learning and childcare.

“These provisions build on the transformation that has taken place in early learning since this government came to power in 2007.

“Back then, three and four-year-olds were entitled to 470 hours of early learning and childcare in a year, the provision was increased to 600 hours in 2014, itself a significant transformation of the provision that was available.

“But after the reforms in 2021 that now stands at 1140 hours for three and four-year-olds, and for eligible two-year-olds.

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“That is a seismic change in the provision of early learning and childcare and one of the most significant public service reforms undertaken by any government in Scotland.”

Swinney said that the expansion of childcare hours is a “shining example” of a policy development that creates the “best start” for children in Scotland, as well as tackling poverty and boosting economic growth by allowing parents to return to work.

The National:

Scottish Tory MSP Liam Kerr raised that free school meals were due to be introduced in August 2022, but the latest PfG suggests that it will not be introduced until 2026.

Swinney pointed to the “financial challenges” facing the Scottish Government following the actions of former Tory prime minister Liz Truss in response to Kerr’s intervention.

The Perthshire North MSP added that the childcare expansion created “new employment opportunities” as well as allowing more parents to “consider entering the labour market” during a time of historically low levels of unemployment.

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“The labour market is very tight due to the fallout of Brexit, which is very unwelcome,” Swinney added.

“It is vital that we take every measure to expand the labour market and fund the expansion of early learning and childcare is part of a range of policy measures designed to combat child poverty, boosted in recent years by the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment.

“Unique in the United Kingdom, delivered during a cost of living crisis, the Scottish Child Payment is quite literally saving some of our most vulnerable citizens from destitution in our society today.”