Scottish Budget 2021: Tackling child poverty a priority, pledges Kate Forbes

Tackling child poverty will be a priority in the Scottish Budget, Kate Forbes has said.

The finance secretary said there would be a “clear strategic effort” to reduce inequalities in the plans she announces today, as well as support for the transition to net-zero.

She visited the Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre in the south of Edinburgh yesterday morning, where she spoke to young people and parents who use the site.

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Finance Secretary Kate Forbes. Picture: Andy Buchanan. Pool/Getty Images

Ms Forbes said: “We have chosen to prioritise within our Budget tackling child poverty and tackling inequalities that have been exacerbated during Covid.

“We have chosen that because it’s one of the most important issues facing Scotland.

“Alongside the transition to net-zero and helping the country to recover, I hope that people will see in this Budget a clear strategic effort to reduce child poverty.”

Asked about workers seeking pay rises due to inflation, the finance secretary said the Government would do “as much as we can” to protect those in the public sector on the lowest pay.

This year’s Budget will be the first with the Scottish Greens as part of the Government, meaning the SNP will not have to strike a deal with any other party in order to pass it through Holyrood.

Ms Forbes said: “That doesn’t mean I don’t reach out and speak to other parties.

“The key is that many of their asks will be reflected in the Budget.

“Ultimately it’ll be for them to decide whether they vote for it or not.”

Earlier, the first ministers of Scotland and Wales wrote to the Prime Minister requesting additional funding for the devolved governments in the event that more restrictions are needed to combat the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Ms Forbes said: “Within a fixed budget, I can’t create new money.

“I would ultimately need additional funding to be made available from the UK Government and I’ve had a number of discussions with businesses about what form that financial support could take.”

The finance secretary also said the Scottish Government’s ten-year plan for economic transformation, originally due to be published by the end of November, will be released “very soon”.

Asked if this will discuss Scottish independence, she said: “There’s quite clearly mismatch between the policies that are required to help Scotland excel and realise its potential and the fact that we don’t have those powers.

“I don’t think you can talk about a ten-year strategy without being cognisant that many of the levers still lie with the UK Government.

“But this is ultimately an economic strategy, it’s not a constitutional strategy.”

The Scottish Conservatives are demanding the SNP deliver a Budget that rebuilds Scotland’s struggling economy and public services.

Shadow finance secretary Liz Smith has called for a £631 million business support package that includes a freeze on the poundage rate payable by businesses and a full year of 75 per cent rates relief on the leisure, hospitality, retail, aviation and newspaper sectors.

“The choice for the SNP is stark – stand up for ordinary, hard-working Scots or stand up for their extremist, anti-business Scottish Green coalition partners,” she said.

“The SNP have to make the most of the record funding settlement from the UK Chancellor – and the package we’re proposing would do just that.”

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