A RESPONSE to a major anti-poverty report has been delayed until after the Holyrood election, the SNP's social justice secretary has confirmed.

Alex Neil told a hustings event that a detailed analysis of recommendations from poverty advisor Naomi Eisenstadt, which Nicola Sturgeon said would be published by last month, will now not emerge until May at the earliest.

The admission came as party representatives clashed over welfare and social justice at a debate hosted by Holyrood magazine in Edinburgh, with a string of new powers in the areas being devolved to Holyrood.

Mr Neil suggested that the Scottish Government did not have enough time before parliament dissolved to produce an official response to Ms Eisenstadt's report, which was published on January 20 when the First Minister made her pledge to say which recommendations she would take forward by the end of March.

He said: "As far as the poverty advisor's report is concerned, that came nearly towards the end of parliament. The detailed response will be made, if we are reelected, after we come back. But I think it's very clear from all the other statements we've made as a government and in the campaign that very much the recommendations made in this report, obviously we are treating very seriously and the First Minister has implemented quite a number of them already."

Among the recommendations made are that the Scottish Government implements a legal duty to test all of its policies to assess their impact on reducing inequality.

Neil Findlay, who represented Labour on the panel, said: "The SNP commissioned Naomi Eisenstadt with great fanfare to look at the issue of poverty and inequality in Scotland. However, it would appear her report has been ditched until after the election, which is sadly more evidence of the SNP putting rhetoric over reality."

Earlier, Mr Findlay had questioned the SNP's commitment to social justice, saying the party was pursuing "political tactics" to obtain power rather than taking the radical action necessary to combat poverty.

He said: "You won't address the deep-seated inequality that I see on my doorstep unless we take some big decisions. And those big decisions mean you can't be all things to all people.

"I get the political tactic they are pursuing, to be a left wing socialist in the East End of Glasgow and a fairly right wing Tory in Inverness. I understand that, but don't then at the same time say you're going to radically change Scotland because you won't."

Mr Neil claimed that the Scottish Parliament had done more to tackle poverty over the past 16 years than Westminster had done in six decades.

He added: "A lot of the levers over the kind of policies we need to change are still going to reside at Westminster. that's not an excuse for inaction because when we publish our manifesto next week we'll see a very comprehensive social justice action plan designed to reduce levels of poverty and inequality in Scotland. We will publish a radical manifesto which will show how we'll use the new powers we're going to get as well as existing powers to tackle these issues."