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by Staff Reporter
22 May 2024
John Swinney to set out priorities as first minister

Alamy

John Swinney to set out priorities as first minister

John Swinney will set out his priorities as first minister in a statement to parliament this afternoon.

Eradicating child poverty will be at the heart of his government’s aims, he is expected to say, as well as growing the economy and investing in net zero.

And he has pledged to work with other parties constructively to achieve those aims.

Speaking ahead of the statement, Swinney said: “I am acutely aware of the economic and fiscal realities that we face and I want to take forward measures that will help people and their families to get on in life: to enable the people of Scotland to live happier, healthier lives.

“One of the benefits of long service in politics is having witnessed the Scottish Parliament when it is functioning at its very best. That happens when parties work constructively together.

“My government will do everything in our power – working with members from across parties – to make child poverty a thing of the past.”

Swinney took over as first minister from Humza Yousaf earlier this month.

Since the scrapping of the Bute House Agreement, the SNP is in minority government and must therefore reach across the aisle to get policies passed.

In his first few weeks in the top job he has attempted to reset his government’s relationship with business to help boost the economy.

Anti-poverty campaigners have said that in order for the first minister to achieve his aim, a “crucial first step” would be to increase the Scottish Child Payment to £40 per week.

That social security benefit is currently available for families with children in receipt of other qualifying benefits and is worth £26.70 per week.

John Dickie, a spokesperson for the End Child Poverty coalition, said: “We are all hugely encouraged by the first minister’s commitment to make eradicating child poverty his number one priority but that commitment needs to be backed by immediate action to boost incomes through increases to the Scottish Child Payment and to remove the barriers to work that so many parents still face.

“Existing commitments to expand funded childcare, close gender, disability and race employment gaps and deliver affordable family housing all need to be funded and built upon.”

Earlier this month, the Trussell Trust told Holyrood that the government needed to take more responsibility for reaching its poverty target – to have fewer than 10 per cent of kids in poverty by 2030 – instead of blaming Westminster.

Meanwhile, former government partners the Scottish Greens have urged the government to redouble its commitment to climate action, including sticking to plans to introduce a presumption against new oil and gas exploration.

Co-leader Lorna Slater said: “The stakes could not be higher, and we don’t have time to waste. This is the most important challenge that this generation of politicians will face, and we must live up to it.

“Scotland has renewable resources that any country would envy, and we can and must be a global leader. That won’t happen by itself, it will need real climate action and a government that is prepared to prioritise it.

“A lot of people are concerned about the prospect of an environmental rollback or a climate climbdown. I hope that in setting his priorities the first minister will give his assurances that this will not happen, and that he commits to building the fairer and greener future that is so vital for Scotland.”

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