EFFORTS to eradicate child poverty will be dealt a “grave blow” if MSPs do not pass the £40 billion Scottish Budget next week, SNP ministers have claimed.

The Scottish Government said “any postponement of the Bill is a delay in the help we can provide to the greatest number of low-income families possible”.

It comes as negotiations over the tax and spending plans for 2020/21 face going down to the wire.

The Greens have helped the minority SNP administration pass its last three Budgets, but an agreement has yet to be reached this year.

READ MORE: Classroom of children to enter poverty in Scotland each day for five years without urgent action

And Finance Secretary Kate Forbes – who took over the brief following the resignation of Derek Mackay over texts he sent a 16-year-old boy – suggested a deal may not be struck this week.

The Scottish Government said around 2,500 low-income families with one child in the first year of life will be eligible for a total of £1,572 in new benefits in 2021/22 if the Budget passes.

This includes the Scottish Child Payment, which is worth £10 per week for every eligible child under six later this year, and for under 16s from 2022.

Other commitments include £645 million to help provide 1,140 hours of free childcare a year, saving a family as much as £4,500 per child.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “If the Budget Bill does not pass it will be a grave blow in our efforts to eradicate the scourge of child poverty from our society.

“We are taking firm action to deliver lasting change to those who need it most and any postponement of the bill is a delay in the help we can provide to the greatest number of low-income families possible.

“We are working hard so the first tranche of Scottish Child Payments can start later this year and provide help to an estimated 170,000 children under six that those children are not getting now.

“This is an example of the scale of the very real impact any delay in the passing of the bill will have.”

Ms Forbes told the BBC the Budget is being delivered in “unprecedented circumstances”.

She said: “Not only is the Budget delayed but there’s also been a mini reshuffle as well.

“So, I’m optimistic that I will get the Budget through but that doesn’t mean it works to the same timetable as previous years.”

The 29-year-old said she believed in compromise, adding: “Government is certainly willing to speak to any party that have reasonable suggestions to make and our challenge will always be finding the money to meet their demands.”

She continued: “Every penny has been deployed which is the challenge of going ahead of the UK Government’s budget.”

The Westminster Budget was delayed by the snap election and is now due to be delivered on March 11.

But the final vote on Scotland’s spending plans will take place next Thursday.

The minority SNP Government must strike a deal with opposition MSPs before then.

One or more parties could abstain to allow the Budget Bill to pass its initial, Stage 1 vote at Holyrood on Thursday this week, while negotiations are ongoing.

READ MORE: Radical action needed to halt rise in child poverty in Scotland

If the legislation is defeated, the Government can reintroduce it as early as the next day.

The Greens have called for tougher action to address the climate crisis in exchange for their support.

A party source said it is heavily pushing for free bus travel for young people to be included in the spending plans, with another meeting with the SNP set for this week.

Another source suggested the Scottish Tories could prove a viable option for the SNP, despite animosity between the two parties.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said there is much within the proposed Budget that retailers can get behind.

He said: “Businesses are looking for as much certainty as possible, which is why it’s crucial MSPs take a collegiate approach and ensure a Budget which supports economic growth is passed swiftly and without delay.

“What businesses won’t want to see is a tax rise bidding war with ill-considered and unassessed measures thrown into the Budget for short term political gain.

“Last year’s Budget was marred by the inclusion of new levies and businesses won’t want to see a repeat.”