Current lockdown restrictions are to be extended until at least the middle of February.
The whole of mainland Scotland will remain under almost a full lockdown with schools, non-essential shops, gyms, salons and most hospitality venues closed.
However, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the latest statistics showed “signs for optimism”, while vaccines continue to be rolled out.
The current lockdown restrictions began early in January, with the ‘stay at home’ message now in law.
Pupils have been learning at home since the school Christmas holidays ended and had previously been due to return to classrooms on February 1.
However, Sturgeon said: “The cabinet decided today that – except for vulnerable and key worker children – school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February.”
The situation will be reviewed on February 2, the First Minister said, adding: “If it is at all possible, as I very much hope it will be, to begin even a phased return to in-school learning in mid-February, we will.”
Another 71 coronavirus-related deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours, while 1165 new cases were detected. A total of 1989 patients are currently being treated in hospital.
Sturgeon said Scots must be continue to be “cautious” about coronavirus, despite declines in the number of new cases.
“We need to see these trends continue, to be more certain that this phase of the epidemic is now on a downward trajectory,” she said.
“And second, we need to be realistic that any improvement we are seeing is down, at this stage, to the fact that we are staying at home and reducing our interactions.
“Any relaxation of lockdown while case numbers, even though they might be declining, nevertheless remain very high, could quickly send the situation into reverse.”
The First Minister also told MSPs that Barra and Vatersay in the Western Isles will move from Level 3 of restrictions to Level 4 – the highest tier – at midnight on Tuesday.
This is due to a “significant outbreak” of Covid on the island.
Giving an update on vaccination numbers, Ms Sturgeon said that, assuming vaccine supplies meet expectations, Scotland will be “on track to be vaccinating 400,000 people a week by the end of February”.
She said more than 90% of care home residents, 70% of care home staff and 70% of all frontline health and care workers have received their first dose of a vaccine.
“That means that in around three months’ time, around three million people in total will have received at least the first dose of the vaccine,” she said.
“This is, of course, the majority of the adult population and includes everyone over the age of 50, and many younger people with an underlying health condition.”
Scotland’s largest teaching union said it supported the decision to keep schools closed.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “While the EIS wants to see schools fully operational as soon as possible, this can only be achieved when it is safe for all students and staff to return, which means full consideration of the evidence on the new variant and its transmissibility amongst young people.”
It has been almost a year since 121 junior doctors graduated early to support Scotland’s biggest health board in its response to coronavirus.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde placed the volunteers at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Inverclyde Royal Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital – the biggest teaching hospital in the country.
Junior doctors were also placed at other NHS health boards across the country.
STV News has followed two doctors as they embarked on the start of their careers.
Ruaraidh Campbell’s career started abruptly when he returned from volunteering in Samoa to help the NHS in the fight against coronavirus.
His graduation date was pulled forward by two months, and soon after he started on the wards.
“I thought there’s no point in sitting at home,” the 25-year-old says. “I’ll get there and help if I can.”
Since March, Ruaraidh has worked on the respiratory and orthopaedic wards, and the high-dependency unit.
“We’ve often seen not just one person coming in with Covid, but multiple people close to them.
“It can often mean that multiple family members or friends can all get very sick at the same time. And unfortunately, when people do pass away, that can be really, really tough.
“Sometimes we’re dealing with situations where relatives are passing away in very short time spaces. That can feel very difficult and you come home and you think, ‘well, this could be my mum and dad, this could be my granny and grandad’.
“When you think about that, when you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, it can feel quite heavy at times.”
One of the things that has shocked Ruaraidh the most is the age of some of his patients.
He says: “Another really difficult thing is seeing patients who are approximately our age, who despite being young and fit are very unwell with Covid.
“That always gives you a bit of a shock.”
Senior consultants say it has been the “most challenging year” junior doctors could have had.
“We’ve had to deal with more death and dying than you usually would,” Ruaraidh said. “But more than that it’s dealing with it in a different way.
“With some visiting restrictions that unfortunately had to be in place because of the pandemic, it’s meant you often have to give tough news or deal with patients and families over the phone.
“I always find breaking bad news difficult. It’s an incredibly personal moment and you have to properly prepare for it. Because, however tough it is for you, it’s tougher for the person listening.
“It can be really difficult to speak frankly and honestly and lay out the facts, because you feel like you’ll hurt the person if you do that. But in most cases by being open and honest, that’s an empowering process.
“I remember the first time doing that, having to speak to a patient’s family and say that it’s not good news. I remember caching myself, when they asked me the question ‘is my relative going to die?’.
“It’s a tough question to answer, you need to compose yourself and say ‘unfortunately, yes but this is what we are going to do to make the person comfortable’.
One of the main problems facing junior doctors is staff illness, with many requiring time off to self-isolate while others work extra shifts to fill the gaps in the rota.
Ruaraidh caught the virus at work.
“I had Covid myself and it really took it out of me,” he says. “Especially for someone who is pretty fit and healthy. I take care of myself and work out most days. It hit me much harder than I thought it would. It was quite nasty and I’ve been quite tired and breathless since.”
Having only worked in Glasgow for a matter of months, Ruaraidh is looking forward to getting to know his new colleagues over a beer when restrictions ease.
“Junior doctors work long hours and shifts can be tough emotionally and physically and when you have time off you value that,” he says.
“It’s been hard outside of work. Because you do a difficult job, there’s this old adage about ‘work hard play hard’ – and I don’t think that’s 100% true anymore, but it speaks to a certain truth that we really valued our time off because after a difficult long job, you want to make the most of your time off.
“And, like everyone else, we’ve struggled with not being able to see our family and our friends and to do the usual hobbies we’d enjoy. So I think that’s been quite tough on people. It’s not just the work but it’s when you come home, it’s been difficult to switch off.”
Ruaraidh’s virtual graduation was a proud day for his family. His mum and older sister are also doctors.
Although he hasn’t been able to see them, his family and girlfriend Sophie have been a great support.
“You have days that are tough, and you do see some sad stuff. And that is the nature of being a junior doctor.
“Sometimes you get home and you just need someone to listen and give you a hug if you’ve had a tough day, which we have quite often.
“I don’t know how often people in a normal job shed a few tears, but it’s not uncommon here.
“I also have my lovely girlfriend, who’s a massive support as well, she brings me back down to earth, she’s fantastic. It’s been tough at times, but that’s experience shared by many people throughout the UK.”
Annie Evans moved 400 miles from her family home in Sheffield to start as a junior doctor at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
“It’s always going to be difficult to start as a doctor, but when you have to start in a new city, in the middle of a pandemic, when you don’t really know anyone… it was difficult,” she says.
Living so far away from home, Annie hasn’t been able to spend time with her family.
“I think my parents are proud. When I speak to my extended family as well, it’s always quite shock if you’re telling them stories.
“I don’t think anyone realises how difficult it can be.”
Annie also works as a representative for her year of junior doctors. She says an extra focus is being placed on support.
“When the number of deaths goes up, then there are more people that do die in the hospital. And sometimes that can be quite difficult, if you’re having to go in and see that, just because that’s not really why you go into medicine.
“So it can be kind of demoralising when you have to experience lots of death all at the same time.”
Doctors have raised concerns over access to training. Pressures of the pandemic have meant lectures can only take place online, and senior consultants can only do so much to mentor their junior colleagues.
Dr Colin Perry, head of education at NHSGG, agrees that there has been less access to training.
But he believes the experience of the past year will shape an entire generation of junior doctors.
“It’s been the most challenging year that they could have had,” he says.
“A global pandemic of a new disease none of us had ever seen before. And so normally when they would look to us for guidance, and I suppose advise on how to treat these diseases, we’ve had to learn with them about how this disease is developed and in the midst of all of that, this is unfortunately a disease that’s associated with a higher mortality than perhaps they would have seen in the wards.
“Certainly they have had to have deal with perhaps more difficult situations than they may normally have encountered.
“I think they will come out of this having learned a great deal very quickly. And I think that might be one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic.
“And I think that has also changed the way we look at junior doctors. We’re very aware of their needs to training and education, but we do look at them more now as able colleagues, and a great resource within the system.”
Nicola Sturgeon has attacked Alex Salmond for not turning up at a Scottish Parliament committee examining the Government’s handling of harassment complaints against him.
Salmond was due to be questioned on Wednesday over his claims that the First Minister misled parliament and of a conspiracy to have him jailed.
He will now give evidence on Friday on his own claims that Sturgeon misled Parliament and broke the ministerial code.
The former first minister asked to delay his appearance after his already-published written evidence was belatedly redacted by Parliament on Tuesday following an intervention by the Crown Office – the body responsible for prosecuting crime in Scotland.
Salmond said the Crown Office’s decision to write to Parliament – purportedly seeking redactions over contempt of court fears – was “astonishing” and asked his lawyers to seek answers about the “unprecedented and highly irregular actions”.
Asked about the saga at the daily coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said: “Any suggestion at all that these decisions are in any way politically influenced are downright wrong.
“I would suggest that they go further than that; that they actually start to buy into what is a false and quite dangerous conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact.
“Creating an alternative reality in which the organs of the state – not just me and the SNP and the civil service and the Crown Office and the police and women who came forward – were all part of some wild conspiracy against him for reasons I can’t explain, maybe that’s easier than just accepting that at the root of all this might just have been issues in his own behaviour.
“But that’s for him to explain if he ever decides to pitch up and sit in front of the committee.”
Sturgeon also repeated her assertion that there is not “a shred of evidence” to support her former mentor’s claim there was a “malicious and concerted” attempt to see him removed from public life involving claims of sexual harassment while he was first minister.
The Government’s investigation of the allegations was found to be “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.
Salmond, who was later acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation.
A spokesman for Salmond said his lawyers will ask the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC – head of the Crown Office and a member of the Scottish Government – to explain the legal basis for the Crown’s intervention, questions over whether the legal position about the evidence has changed and why, and whether there were any representations made to the Crown Office.
Mr Wolffe was called to Parliament on Wednesday to answer an urgent question about the Crown Office intervention that caused published evidence from the former first minister to be taken down and heavily redacted.
He insisted there was no political pressure on the decision.
In response to a question about whether he was consulted about the letter from the Crown Office, Mr Wolffe said: “No, I was not.
“The decisions in relation to this matter were made by senior professional prosecutors acting independently as they always do, and without reference to the law officers.”
He added: “Scotland’s public prosecutors take difficult decisions which some may find unpopular.
“They take those decisions objectively, professionally and in the public interest, and they act independently of any other person.”
Meanwhile, Salmond’s legal team said it was “clearly impossible” for him to give evidence under oath on Wednesday in the circumstances and offered to postpone his appearance until Friday.
A meeting of the cross-party committee agreed it still wants to hear evidence from Salmond.
The committee then voted to recall Mr Wolffe to face more questions as well as agreeing to order the Crown Office to release further documents to the committee.
Sturgeon will then make her appearance on Wednesday.
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “There was unanimous agreement in the committee that it wants to hear from Alex Salmond.
“His evidence has always been an important part of the committee’s work and as such the committee agreed that it would invite Mr Salmond to give evidence in person on Friday.
“The First Minister will then give evidence as the final witness to the inquiry on Wednesday.
“The committee remains determined to complete its task set by the Parliament and today agreed further actions in order to help them complete this work.”
Nearly two-thirds of Scots believe there are not enough nursing staff to provide safe and effective care, according to a new poll.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland survey, carried out on January 25 and 26 by Scotpulse, suggests 73% believe the number of staff employed in the country’s health and care services is too low.
A vast majority (92%) agreed nurses should be guaranteed time for doing training and development while 89% said more should be done to protect their wellbeing.
The union’s poll also returned high figures of those supportive of a pay rise for NHS nursing staff (83%) and those who agreed nurses should be paid more for the work they do (78%).
Respondents said such a pay rise should be one of the top three priorities for Scottish Government spending on health and care in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The other two priorities suggested were tackling the backlog of delayed treatments and reducing waiting times and increasing access to mental health services.
Susan Aitkenhead, RCN Scotland director, said: “Nursing as a profession has been integral to the pandemic response; working under immense pressure, whether in hospitals, out in the community, or looking after vulnerable people in care homes.
“As the focus begins to shift towards recovery and remobilisation, we have set out what needs to be done to meet the health and wellbeing needs of the people of Scotland and to protect the future of nursing.
“It is clear that the public agrees that more needs to be done to value the nursing profession and enable nursing staff to provide the best possible care.
“Our members remain committed to their profession, but action is urgently needed to ensure nursing is attractive, well-paid and meaningfully supported, otherwise we risk many of our members leaving – at a time when the nation needs them more than ever.”
It comes after other union leaders said workers deserved a pay deal that recognises their “sacrifices” during the pandemic, as it was announced more than 150,000 NHS staff are being awarded an interim 1% pay rise.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said the increase, backdated to December 2020, comes amid the “sustained pressure” they have been under with formal negotiations also impacted by the delay to the UK Government Budget.
The RCN is continuing to campaign for a 12.5% pay rise for NHS staff across the UK with Ms Aitkenhead adding: “Scotland’s nursing staff deserve better.
“Our members will be angry and disappointed that the Scottish Government is not willing to do more to value the skills and expertise of the nursing profession.
“They will not understand why they have to wait until the summer for negotiations to commence.
“This is not the substantive pay award our members are looking for and does not recognise their contribution.
“Today’s unexpected announcement has been imposed rather than negotiated and we would ask Scottish Government to honour its commitment and enter into meaningful negotiations now.”
Sir Billy Connolly is to publish an autobiography called Windswept And Interesting.
The Glasgow-born comedian, 78, will recount stories from his life in the book, which is set to be published on October 14.
Sir Billy, who was a welder in his home city before becoming an entertainer, said: “It’s the first time I’ve done this. Other people have written about me, or for me, but this time it’s just my own life in my own words.
“I didn’t know I was windswept and interesting until somebody told me.
“I had long hair and a beard and was swishing around in electric-blue flairs.
“He said ‘look at you, all windswept and interesting’.
“I just said ‘exactly’. After that, I simply had to maintain my reputation.”
Nick Davies, managing director of John Murray Press, the book’s publisher, said: “National treasure, welder statesman, living legend, there are few people who inspire such warmth and affection among audiences worldwide.”
He added: “It is a wise, heartfelt, opinionated and hugely funny book. And it has been one of the great pleasures of my career to work on it.”
Sir Billy, who lives in the US, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013 and retired from live performances five years later.
In December, he told the PA news agency he feels “happy in his skin” after making the “obvious” decision to retire following his diagnosis.
Earlier this month, he received his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Finance secretary Kate Forbes has urged MSPs to back her tax and spending plans for the coming year – saying these provide a “solid foundation” for Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19.
Forbes called for other parties to back her draft budget as it comes before the Scottish Parliament for voting for the first time, saying the country is still in the grip of a “national emergency”.
And she insisted that in these “unprecedented times” the parliament must work together to “provide the support that our businesses, people and communities need”.
The draft budget for 2021-22, unveiled by Forbes last month, promises record funding of £16bn for the NHS in Scotland, while local authorities will also get money to freeze the council tax – with the Scottish Government seeing this as a way of helping families who have been struggling financially in the wake of the pandemic.
But councils have continued to press the government for more than the £11.6bn local government has been allocated.
To help businesses impacted by coronavirus, Forbes also said the budget would extend the 100% rates relief for some of the hardest-hit sectors – including retail, hospitality, leisure, aviation and newspapers – for a further year.
With the Scottish Government not having a majority in Holyrood, ministers need to win the support of at least one other party for the budget to pass.
In recent years deals have been struck between the SNP government and the Scottish Greens but, earlier this week, their Holyrood co-leader, Patrick Harvie, said ministers must do more to help those most in need.
He said: “The recovery from Covid cannot return to the broken old system that left too many Scots on poor wages with insecure jobs.
“That’s why the Scottish Greens have called for the Scottish Government to go further in the budget to boost household incomes, whether by strengthening the social security safety net, cutting public transport costs, making homes warmer and more efficient or providing more free meals for children at school.”
Forbes however insisted she had put together a “consensual budget for unprecedented times”.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s debate, the finance secretary stated: “I have engaged widely to ensure we deliver not just the Scottish Government’s priorities of creating jobs, supporting our sustainable recovery while responding to the health crisis and tackling inequality, but also those raised by other parties.”
She said further changes to her spending plans may be required after UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils his Budget next week.
But she stressed the Scottish budget “delivers £1.1bn for jobs and skills, record spending for health services, £11.6bn for local government plus a further £259m of non-recurring coronavirus funding, and new resources to tackle climate change”.
Forbes said: “It lays a solid foundation for Scotland’s recovery and renewal and I look forward to it being supported across the chamber.”
The Scottish Conservatives accused Sturgeon of giving people “next to no hope”.
She told the briefing: “If I was to give you a fixed, hard and fast date right now, I would pretty much be making it up and I don’t think that’s the approach I should take with you.
“I’m not ruling out any specific dates. I want it to be as soon as possible and we have every reason to be hopeful that come the summer life will be much, much, much better than it is just now, but when I stand here and give you what I think the actual date when all or most restrictions will come to an end is going to be, I want to be as sure as I can be that is real and it can be delivered.”
Sturgeon added: “I don’t just understand the frustrations that people have, I feel those frustrations.
“As has been the case all along, I’ll have to take decisions that sometimes you agree with and sometimes you disagree with, but I can assure you that the Scottish Government will continue to do our very best to lead the country as quickly but also as safely and sustainably through this horrible ordeal and out the other side of it.”
Speaking after confirming Scotland has recorded 47 deaths from coronavirus and 798 positive tests in the past 24 hours, she said the Scottish Government’s updated framework for easing restrictions focuses on the next six weeks as “that’s the timeframe that right now we can be most confident about”.
The First Minister said there is uncertainty over how the more infectious virus strain will behave once restrictions are lifted and the impact of the phased return to schools will be particularly scrutinised in this regard.
She said: “My hope is that the more we learn about the impact of the early changes, the more confidence we will then have that we can go further and faster, without risking a resurgence of the virus that would set us all back. In the meantime, we will move forward carefully.”
She also announced care homes should be supporting up to two named visitors for each resident from March 1, where possible, and Scottish Government guidance on this “very important way forward” will be published on Wednesday.
Sturgeon gave a further update on the daily coronavirus figures, announcing the daily test positivity rate is 3.9%, down from 4.8% on Tuesday.
There are 1018 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 58 in 24 hours, and there was no change in those in intensive care which remains at 93.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The First Minister seems to be rattled by the backlash to her plans.
“Nicola Sturgeon gave people next to no hope of when restrictions would ease and now she’s having to furiously backtrack. She seems to be on the verge of a climb-down over her lockdown plan already.
“After Scottish Conservative calls for a u-turn on the slow school reopening, she dodged questions about return dates.
“She’s now suggesting the loosening of restrictions to level 2 might happen earlier and, in another masterclass of political spin, trying to rewrite history and claim that was the plan all along.
“When people just want a clear message of hope and certainty, they’re getting less clarity and more confusion from the First Minister.”
Cars could be banned from one of the busiest thoroughfares in Edinburgh as part of radical transformation plans to open up the space for pedestrians, bikes, and outdoor seating areas.
George Street, which lies parallel to Princes Street and runs from St Andrew Square to Charlotte Square, would be largely car-free if the project is given the go-ahead.
The plans say the street will be given a ‘European boulevard feel’ to better accentuate the A-listed buildings that adorn it.
Bus stops will be located at either end of the city centre, and car parking will remain for blue badge holders and for loading access for businesses.
The visualisation also includes widened pavements, landscaped spaces for play and relaxation, and a cycling thoroughfare.
It is intended to begin construction work on the scheme in 2023, with anticipated completion in 2025.
Lesley Macinnes, convener of the council’s transport committee, and SNP councillor for Liberton and Gilmerton, said: “These animated concept designs offer an exciting glimpse into what George Street and the surrounding area could look like in 2025 – a welcoming, relaxing and unique space, where people will want to spend time, to visit local shops, cafes and restaurants and to travel to and through the city centre.”
A detailed artist’s impressions and a 3D fly-through have been released to illustrate how the street and surrounding area within the UNESCO World Heritage Site could look under the George Street and First New Town Public Realm Improvements Project.
The project is expected to cost £32m, with £20m from Transport Scotland via Sustrans.
Edinburgh City Council first agreed to increase pedestrian space in the city centre in 2013 and, beginning in 2014, a new layout was trialled for 18 months on George Street.
Since then design principles have been developed and the project was widened to include the interconnecting Castle, Frederick and Hanover Streets and the junctions with Charlotte and St Andrew Squares.
A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council said: “Improvements are being delivered as part of a coordinated package of projects under Edinburgh City Centre Transformation.
“This includes the forthcoming Meadows to George Street and City Centre West to East Link schemes, which will transform walking, wheeling and cycling routes, and connections across the city centre.
“These schemes also support the City Mobility Plan, a ten-year strategy to overhaul transport and mobility in the capital to deliver a sustainable, net-zero carbon and inclusive future.”
Edinburgh City Council said key considerations for the project have been putting people first, protecting the area’s heritage, promoting the environment and biodiversity, and providing accessible transport links.
Further consultation with key stakeholders is set to take place over the next month; the outcome of which will inform a final design proposal, set to be brought before the council’s transport and environment committee in April.
The required statutory processes under which the scheme will be constructed would then begin in the summer.
Simon Strain, Interim Head of Infrastructure Delivery for Sustrans Scotland said: “George Street is one of the most vibrant and distinctive shopping streets in Scotland.
“We are pleased to be supporting the increased space for walking, wheeling and cycling that this project will create, upgrading one of the city’s key travel routes.
“The new spaces for sitting and relaxing provide both visitors and residents with comfortable spaces where they can rest and enjoy the World Heritage Site.”
Scottish Government ministers have been warned they risk missing their targets on child poverty – as analysis indicated a new payment to help poorer families does not go far enough.
Nicola Sturgeon and other Scottish Government ministers have spoken about the impact the new £10-a-week Scottish Child Payment could have on hard-up families.
But the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) warned that on its own, the payment will not be enough to meet Scotland’s “ambitious” child poverty targets.
The charity said its analysis shows that without further action, Scotland will miss its interim child poverty target by 4% – leaving 40,000 children trapped in poverty as a result.
Ministers have set a target of reducing the proportion of children living in relative poverty to 18% by 2023, ahead of a cut to 10% by the end of the decade.
Scottish Government figures show that in 2018-19, almost a quarter (23%) of children were living in poverty.
While the JRF said the Scottish Child Payment, which started being paid to families last week, would “significantly reduce the child poverty rate in Scotland”, it added that “without further action, it isn’t enough to meet the targets”.
The JRF estimates the targets could be met if the new welfare payment is upped to £30 – which it says will cost an additional £380m a year.
But it added that if the UK Government does not extend increases in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits introduced last spring, the Scottish Child Payment would need to rise to £40 a week for the 2023 target to be achieved – which could cost an additional £520 million.
Chris Birt, JRF deputy director for Scotland, said: “All parties in Scotland have made a promise to stamp out child poverty. Politicians and the public have a shared vision of a Scotland in which every child can grow up healthy and safe and go on to live a full and rewarding life.
“Our analysis shows there’s a lot of work to do but that it is possible to lift thousands of children out of poverty. With an election coming up, all parties must demonstrate how they plan to turn the tide on child poverty and meet their own ambitious targets.
“The Scottish Child Payment is a welcome start, but on its own it does not go nearly far enough.
“It’s time for all parties to build on this momentum and step up to the challenge. A plan to tackle Scotland’s stubbornly high poverty levels must be a priority in this election.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We remain determined to deliver on our ambition to eradicate child poverty in Scotland and will set out plans for further ambitious action in our second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, to be published in March 2022.
“In 2019-20 we invested nearly £2bn in support for low-income households, including over £672m targeted specifically at children, and we are committed to going even further.
“In our response to Covid we have committed over £500m to support people and communities impacted by the pandemic, including over £50m for continued free school meal provision, across school closures and holiday periods, and over £30m for awards of hardship payments to children in low-income households.”
He continued: “Later this month, we will start making payments of the new ‘game changing’ Scottish child payment for children from low-income households – worth £40 every four weeks for each child under six.
“Our Scottish child payment together with best start grant and best start foods will provide over £5200 of financial support for families by the time their first child turns six. As this report highlights, the UK Government must make tackling poverty a priority starting with making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and matching our ambitions by introducing a benefit similar to our flagship Scottish child payment to lift people out of poverty.”