Thousands of children in lower income families will benefit under plans to double a social security payment to £20 a week.
Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Child Payment uplift is the “boldest and most ambitious anti-poverty measure anywhere in the UK”.
She announced the payment will increase from April next year.
First introduced in February, the benefit pays out to more than 105,000 children under the age of six.
It will reach about 400,000 children when the age cap is lifted to 16 from the end of 2022.
Ms Sturgeon says doubling these payments involves making “hard choices” elsewhere in the budget, but says it is “essential” for Scotland’s future.
‘Boldest and most ambitious’ benefit
Ms Sturgeon said: “I am proud that our budget will confirm that we will double the Scottish Child Payment from the start of the new financial year.
“This increase to £20 per child per week will reach over 105,000 children under age six in just four months’ time.”
She added: “When we extend the Scottish Child Payment to all under 16s at the end of next year, over 400,000 children and their families will be eligible.
“This is the boldest and most ambitious anti-poverty measure anywhere in the UK.”
With the cost of the benefit expected to reach £360 million in 2023-24, Ms Sturgeon added: “Delivering it isn’t easy.
“It will involve hard choices elsewhere in our budget but it is a choice we are opting to make.”
“Eradicating child poverty is essential if we are to build the strongest foundation for Scotland’s future.”
The move was welcomed by anti-poverty campaigners.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This is a real lifeline for the families across Scotland who are facing a perfect storm of financial insecurity as the UK cut to universal credit bites, energy prices soar and the wider costs of living rise.”
Opposition reacts to announcement
Despite many campaigners lauding the announcement, opposition parties in Holyrood say Ms Sturgeon should have gone further or should have used more of the devolved powers available to her.
Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, says the benefit should be upped even further to £40.
She said: “The doubling of the Scottish Child Payment is a very welcome development and the credit for it must go to all the campaigners who have held the SNP to account and forced them into action.
“But as it stands, this welcome development will not be enough to ensure we meet the statutory child poverty targets that the Scottish Parliament has passed.
“That’s why the Scottish Child Payment must be doubled again next year to meet these targets.”
Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, added: “I welcome the first minister’s announcement that the Scottish Child Payment will increase next year.
“But I would urge her to make more use of the extensive devolved powers the Scottish Government has on benefits, instead of stirring up grievance by complaining that they don’t have enough.”