SCOTLAND faces a “significant” challenge if it is to eradicate child poverty, First Minister John Swinney has told MSPs.

The First Minister said while the SNP in power had brought about a “transformation in the life chances of children in Scotland” there was still much work to be done.

Swinney said: “Although there are signs of great progress I recognise we still have a long way to go.”

His comments came as he led a debate in Holyrood on tackling child poverty – something the First Minister has already declared to be the number one priority for his administration.

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Figures published in March showed that 260,000 children in Scotland – 26% of youngsters – were living in relative poverty in 2022-23, up approximately 30,000 from the previous year.

Swinney said, however, that analysis suggested measures introduced by the SNP government, such as the Scottish Child Payment benefit, could keep 100,000 youngsters out of relative poverty in 2024-25.

He told MSPs: “Make no mistake, Scotland’s actions and policies are having an impact. We are making a difference.”

But the First Minister also told Holyrood: “Our challenge is significant on the question of eradicating child poverty, given we are operating in a context of acute difficulty in achieving that aim.

“Over the last decade the upheaval brought on by austerity, the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, and the impact of Brexit has escalated the scale of the challenge we face.”

Here he insisted that having a UK government that was “more favourable to our objectives would help, rather than hinder us” as he claimed actions in Scotland were being held back by policies set at Westminster.

Swinney said the Scottish Government was “greatly constrained by both a historically challenging budget settlement from Westminster and the limits of our devolved powers”.

He added: “For too long decisions made at Westminster have undermined the ambition and the progress we seek to make in Scotland.”

He insisted that the two-child cap on some benefits was a “signicant impediment” to the Scottish Government’s efforts, with Swinney saying the policy, imposed by the UK Government, “essentially drives poverty in our society”.