THE First Minister has called on the UK Government to provide further support in the upcoming Spring Budget to tackle poverty in Scotland.

Speaking ahead of a visit to a community library in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Yousaf said that despite considerable attempts to mitigate UK Government cuts more targeted action was needed if Chancellor Jeremy Hunt wanted to help those struggling.

“Tackling child poverty is a central mission for the Scottish Government,” he said.

“That’s why in the year ahead we will invest a record £6.3 billion in social security benefits, including the game-changing Scottish Child Payment and six other benefits only available in Scotland. This is a full £1.1 billion more than we receive for social security.

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“However, most of the powers to tackle poverty and the cost of living remain in the UK Government’s hands.

“The Spring Budget is an opportunity for the Chancellor to take action to provide further targeted support for people who are struggling.

“We have made repeated calls to make social security fit for purpose - by introducing an Essentials Guarantee, to ensure Universal Credit is always enough to meet people’s basic needs - and by removing the punitive two child limit and so-called ‘rape clause.’

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“This damaging policy restricts the amount of support available to some of our most vulnerable people and disproportionately affects women and children.

“We will continue to do everything within the scope of our powers and budget in order to meet our statutory child poverty targets and will be relentless in that focus, but it is only with the full economic and fiscal powers of an independent nation that ministers can use all levers other governments have to tackle inequalities.”

It comes after the Scottish Budget was passed in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening, with Deputy First Minister Shona Robison lamenting a “new age of austerity” enforced by the Tories.