THE SNP’s hopes of a cross-party consensus to tackle poverty has been halted after Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie accused the new Social Justice Secretary of playing the constitution card.

Mr Rennie has pointed the finger at Shona Robison after he received a letter from her ahead of Tuesday’s Holyrood debate on poverty.

The Lib Dem leader has claimed the SNP has used “the issue of poverty to advance their constitutional arguments” - despite the fact Ms Robison’s letter does not mention independence.

In her letter to party leaders, the Social Justice, Housing and Local Government Secretary highlights she will lodge a motion next next week to agree that tackling child poverty “should be a national mission for this government and parliament” and also “agree the need for employment powers to be devolved to allow us to take further action to tackle poverty”.

Scottish Labour also backs more employment powers being devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

READ MORE: Child poverty rises in every Scottish local authority over last six years

Ms Robison adds: “Whilst we aim to maximise the impact of investments made and support the radical shifts necessary to deliver upon our ambition, as you are well aware, many of the levers required are not at our disposal.

“Scotland is at the forefront of policy development in respect of fair work, inclusive growth and developing an economy in which all of our citizens can participate.

“Securing the full range of powers in relation to employment will enable the Scottish Parliament to fully implement policies that will best meet Scotland’s distinct needs.

“With employment powers reserved, the Scottish Government is limited in what action can be taken to make employers adopt fairer working practices that support workers to lead lives without poverty.”

Ms Robison will write to the UK Government next week “to request they transfer the full devolution of employment powers to the Scottish Government” and is seeking cross-party support for the move.

Despite no mention of independence, Mr Rennie has taken offence with the call for further devolved powers.

He said: “How pathetically predictable that the SNP use the issue of poverty to advance their constitutional arguments.

“This issue should require us to come together to resolve it. That must mean the UK and Scottish Governments working together like adults for a change.”

Mr Rennie added: “We should be using all our powers to grow the economy, train people for work, close the poverty related attainment gap in schools and social security to enhance benefits.

“Shona Robison should focus on being the minister against poverty, not the minister for independence.”