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by Louise Wilson
22 May 2024
John Swinney: Government will ‘not tackle, not reduce, but eradicate child poverty’


John Swinney: Government will ‘not tackle, not reduce, but eradicate child poverty’

The four priorities of the Scottish Government will be to eradicate child poverty, grow the economy, reach net zero and invest in public services, John Swinney has said.

Delivering a statement weeks after he took the top job, the first minister also confirmed his first programme for government would be delivered before the summer recess.

He pledged to “engage positively” with parties across the chamber on tackling challenges facing Scotland.

But Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the statement was “more of the same promises that the SNP will break again”.

Labour’s Anas Sarwar said the SNP has “no vision and no plan” on the NHS.

Swinney become the eighth first minister of Scotland earlier this month and has taken the opportunity to attempt a reset for his party after a difficult year.

He now leads a minority government, after predecessor Humza Yousaf ended the Bute House Agreement with the Greens, and will therefore need to reach across the political aisle for support.

He told the chamber: “My first priorities is to eradicate child poverty – not tackle, not reduce, but eradicate child poverty.

“This will be this single most important objective of my government and my cabinet, because child poverty stunts the progress of any nation and stands in the way off both social justice and economic growth.

“My cabinet will do everything in our power – including listening to and working with members from across this chamber – to achieve our aim.”

The programme for government is an annual document setting out the policy programming for the coming 12 months.

It is usually delivered in early September, immediately after MSPs have returned from summer recess, but Swinney said he will move it forward to shape a number of key decisions to be taken over the summer – including on the energy strategy.

His government will also published its tax and financial strategies next month.

Ross said the statement to parliament proved Swinney was the “ultimate continuity candidate” and attacked his record in government.

But seizing on the offer for cross-party cooperation, he urged the first minister to back his Right to Rehabilitation Bill. Swinney confirmed his government was looking at the detail.

Labour accused the government of governing “by gimmick and press release” and called for more support for the NHS in particular.

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