NICOLA Sturgeon will today promise to make ending child poverty “a national mission” if the SNP is re-elected in May, partly by doubling the Scottish to-up benefit for low income families.

The First Minister, who made closing the educational attainment gap her mission in the last parliament and failed, will make the election promise at a virtual campaign conference.

Official figures out last week showed child poverty set to miss current SNP targets, as it rose from 23 to 24 per cent in 2019/20 to almost a quarter of a million children in Scotland.

The Scottish Child Payment provides £10-a-week to low income families for each child up to the age of six, but is due cover all children under 16 by the end of 2022.

Ms Sturgeon will say her intention is to raise it £20 per week over the next parliament, benefitting more than 400,000 children in 250,000 households.

She will also propose accelerated “bridging payments” for qualifying families during 2022, with the full annual £520 being paid in four quarterly instalments.

She is expected to tell SNP activists today: “The Scottish Child Payment has been described as a game changer in the fight to end child poverty. We know the pandemic will continue to cause financial hardship before then - so I can announce today that we will make bridging payments.

“But I can announce today that we will go further – I want to make ending child poverty a national mission for the next Parliament.

“It’s time to end the scandal of child poverty and this will help to do it. It is a down payment on what will be possible when we have the full powers over tax and social security that only independence can deliver.”

The Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security (SCoRSS) has also called for the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment as well as increasing financial support for unpaid carers and a fundamental review of disability assistance.

Debbie Horne, of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “This election comes at a time when a properly functioning social security safety net has never been so important.

“Over the next five years Scotland has the chance to create a world-leading social security system.”

At yesterday’s SNP conference, Education Secretary John Swinney promised a free laptop or tablet for every child in Scotland for use at home and school if the SNP is re-elected in a £350m policy.

He said: “If we are re-elected in May, the SNP will roll out a new programme to deliver into the hands of every school child in Scotland a laptop, Chromebook or tablet to use in school and at home. It will come with a free internet connection and full technical support. It will be updated when necessary, replaced when needed and upgraded as technology improves.”

He said the pandemic has shown such devices were “no longer luxuries” but “the basic building blocks of a good education”.

He said: “A child cannot do their homework on mum or dad’s phone. And they cannot study online if they can’t connect to the internet.

“Just as in my day the teacher handed out a jotter to all, so in this internet age we will hand each child the device they need to learn and prosper.”

Scottish Tory Jamie Greene said: “The SNP left too many pupils without access to vital devices for learning at home over the last year.

“They ignored our calls for more support for online learning for months but it seems that now an election campaign is under way they are willing to admit they didn’t do enough.”

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said if the SNP was re-elected, the age at which people pay council tax would be raised from 18 to 21, a saving of £750 a year for someone living alone in a Band D property.

She added: “Some people might say we should put economic recovery before independence. But you can’t have one without the other. For a strong, robust, green recovery we need independence.”