One in four children living in Scotland are growing up in the grip of poverty. In a country that prides itself on its values of compassion and justice, this goes against everything that we stand. On the 9th of December Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, can play her part in loosening the grip of poverty in Scotland, by using her budget to immediately double the Scottish Child Payment, the £10 per week benefit for families on low incomes.

It would be a decision that would help to make real the Scottish Government’s declaration that ending child poverty is its “national mission”, and one that would receive support from across the political spectrum, with every party at the last Scottish elections committing to doubling the payment. The critical question, of course, is when that increase will take place.

Most importantly, it would be a decision that would put cash directly into the pockets of families that are, right now, struggling to stay afloat amid a rising tide of poverty. For many, it would mean the difference between putting food on the table or not, between being able to turn the heating on or not, or between buying their child a new winter coat or not.

The reasons why so many people are being forced into making these types of decisions are clear. The way our economy has been designed creates powerful currents – like low pay and rising living costs – that pull people into hardship and lock them into a daily struggle to make ends meet.

In such situations, people should be able to expect the social security system to be there to catch them. Yet decisions in recent years like implementing the benefit cap, the two child limit, and the recent decision to cut Universal Credit by £20 mean that, for too many people, the social security system is tightening rather than loosening the grip of poverty.

But we do not have to accept these shameful levels of poverty. The Scottish Government is right when it points out that when it comes to social security, the main drivers of poverty stem from decisions made by UK ministers. It is important to remember though that Scottish Ministers have very real and substantial powers to do something about child poverty. If the Scottish Government wants to meet its child poverty targets, those powers must be used to their fullest extent. At December’s budget, that means taking the action we need now to stem the rising tide of poverty across Scotland.

That the UK Government has failed in its moral duty to protect people from poverty is abundantly clear. Decisions like cutting Universal Credit represent a gross dereliction of a government’s fundamental responsibility to protect people from harm. On 9th December, Kate Forbes has the chance to meet her moral duty to use our national resources to protect the lives and life chances of Scotland’s children. She must seize that chance, do the right thing, and double the Scottish Child Payment.

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance