THE SNP will today launch a national mission to “eradicate poverty” from Scotland despite concerns existing targets are being missed.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison will appeal to MSPs at a Holyrood debate this afternoon in a bid to “build a fairer, more equal Scotland”.

But opposition MSPs have pointed to exiting child poverty targets that were due to be missed before the pandemic.

As part of the Child Poverty Act, unanimously approved by MSPs in 2017, statutory targets were established that by 2030, less than 10% of children should be living in relative poverty, less than 5% should be living in absolute poverty and less than 5% should be living in persistent poverty.

A report by Loughborough University on behalf of the End Child Poverty coalition last month found that levels of child poverty have risen in every Scottish local authority over the past six years.

The study found that even before the pandemic began, levels of child poverty in Scotland ranged from nearly one in six children in the Shetland Islands and East Renfrewshire to nearly one in three in Glasgow - once housing costs are taken into account.

Ahead of this afternoon’s debate, Ms Robison said: “It is time for us to work together to eradicate poverty in Scotland.

“While the pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the hardships faced by many in this country, it has also shown that we can make change happen at the pace and scale required for this new national mission.”

READ MORE: Child poverty rises in every Scottish local authority over last six years with one topping the list

She added: “As a government we invest around £2 billion every year to support low income households. During the pandemic we provided an additional £1 billion to people and communities and to build resilience in public services during the pandemic, with an immediate impact on people’s lives.

“Our actions meant children and young people from low income families were able to access free school meal support during all school holidays and periods of remote learning, as well as putting money in the pockets of those who needed it most through pandemic support payments.

“Now we must redouble our efforts, working across government, parliament and society to build a fairer, more equal Scotland where everyone has enough food to eat, a warm, safe home that meets their needs and the means to give their children the best start in life.”

The Scottish Government is set to write to the UK Government, asking for further employment powers to be devolved to Holyrood.

Last week, Ms Robison wrote to opposition party leaders, warning that “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”.

She added: “The powers over employment law would enable us to create fairer workplaces, increase wages, reduce insecure work, and therefore shift the curve on poverty.”

But Scottish Greens social security spokeswoman, Maggie Chapman, said targets on child poverty in Scotland were due to be missed before the pandemic.

She added: “There was cross-party agreement during the recent election campaign that the Scottish Child Payment should be doubled.

“All parties agreed that tackling child poverty was a priority. And it is good to see that we are finally getting to a radical approach to tackling child poverty across the public sector and beyond.

“By taking this approach, we can minimise child poverty and identify further powers we need to stop Westminster condemning children to living in poverty."

“Westminster’s failures should not be a cover for us not doing what we can – but we know what we need is more powers to address child poverty fully.”

READ MORE: Lib Dems halt SNP's attempt at cross-party poverty action call

Labour has called on Ms Robison to focus on taking action with the powers the Scottish Parliament already has in order to halt poverty, rather than demanding more responsibility from the UK Government.

The party’s social justice spokeswoman, Pam Duncan-Glancy, also pushed for the Scottish Government to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to address the issue, saying in a letter to Ms Robison, said that the Scottish Government should work “hard and fast” to alleviate the strain on families.

In a briefing sent to Ms Robison, the party outlined a number of options to address poverty including a ban on public sector contracts being awarded to companies that offer zero hour contracts or pay below the living wage, bringing forward the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week and increasing the social house building target.

Ms Duncan-Glancy added: “Where you use all the powers of this Parliament available to you to reduce poverty and inequality, our party will work with you.”

She also said that Labour support the devolution of employment law, but would want to see a consultation with workers beforehand.