CHARITIES have urged Nicola Sturgeon to speed up the introduction of a new devolved benefit intended to tackle poverty.

The SNP Government is due to set out details of its family income supplement to MSPs tomorrow, but has already said it will not take effect until 2022.

Almost 70 charities, unions, academics, faith leaders and poverty campaigners have written to the First Minister pleading for the top-up measure to be fast-tracked.

Their joint letter said it could be a “lineline” for the 240,000 children estimated to be living in relative poverty in Scotland.

Derek Mitchell, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “All across our network we see people struggling to make ends meet – even people in work. Fast-tracking the Income Supplement would be a huge help to those people.

“Half of working people in Scotland have run out of money before payday, and a third of those people have gone without food as a result. Such people need action now, not in three years’ time.”

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SallyAnn Kelly, CEO of the children’s charity Aberlour, said: “Waiting until 2022 is too late for many families who are struggling now and the 240,000 children living in poverty.

“The Scottish government must use the powers available to them before it’s too late.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “This is a serious call by some of Scotland’s most senior charities which must not be ignored by the SNP.

“Children queuing with their parents at food banks cannot wait three years for help. They need it now.”

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Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said the government’s first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, published last year, “outlined the range of actions to be taken to help meet our child poverty targets, backed by a £50m fund”.

She continued: “Our actions include working on development of a new income supplement and we have involved stakeholders, including Poverty Alliance and many of their signatories, in that work.

“A one-year progress report on the delivery plan will be given to parliament on Wednesday.”