The Scottish Government “would have lifted 10,000 more children out of poverty” if they had used the money set aside for the council tax freeze to hike the Scottish Child Payment instead. 

New analysis from the IPPR warned that Shona Robison’s budget choices risked “stalling” Scotland’s attempts to tackle child poverty, by "disproportionately" benefiting wealthier households.

While the Deputy First Minister told MSPs that the Scotland-only benefit would rise next April, it will only increase by the rate of inflation, taking it from £25 to £26.70.

That’s despite Humza Yousaf previously promising to raise the weekly payment for low income families to £30 a week in his first budget.

READ MORE: Anger as Scottish budget widens cross-border tax gap and cuts services

In her statement to MSPs yesterday, Ms Robison confirmed that the council tax freeze - announced by the First Minister at the SNP conference - would go ahead, with £144m additional funding made available to local authorities. 

In their analysis of the budget, IPPR Scotland said if the Finance Secretary had instead directed that money at the Scottish Child Payment, its value could have been increased to £34.50 a week which would have lifted 10,000 more children out of poverty and cut the relative child poverty rate by an extra percentage point. 

The think tank’s analysis also said that the freeze would “disproportionately benefit wealthier households,” with about two-thirds of the saving “seen by the top half of the income spectrum.”

The poorest households will save an average of 50p a week, as the measure will make no difference to the 450,000 low-income households who receive Council Tax Reduction.  

READ MORE: Scottish Budget: £200m cut to housing condemned amid homeless crisis

The IPPR also warned of the impact on poverty levels of the £200m cut in social housebuilding and the failure to fund an acceleration of the rollout of free childcare to one and two-year-olds.

They said that the previous offer of 500 hours a year of free childcare kept around 10,000 people above the poverty line, a number that would increase further through expanded access and entitlement.   

Dave Hawkey, senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland, said:  “All indications are that Scotland’s interim child poverty target – set in legislation by the Scottish Government – will be missed next year, setting us off course from the final target and keeping children trapped in poverty. 

“However, rather than making progress towards Scotland’s child poverty ambitions, this budget risks stalling it. 

“On top of the missed opportunity to target £140 million of spending at households who need it most, we see vital budget lines cut and commitments broken. 

“Future budgets are likely to present a growing list of hard choices. 

“Further spending cuts at UK level will put further pressure on the Scottish budget, as will the needs of an ageing society and the transition to net zero. 

“Instead of imperceptible changes like saving around £1 per week on people’s council tax bills, we need an open and honest debate about how we tackle the challenges our society faces.”