Legislation aimed at helping to eradicate child poverty in Scotland has been announced by Nicola Sturgeon.
The First Minister said the Child Poverty Bill will set out a new approach to tackling inequality as she visited the Prince’s Trust charity.
She also announced the re-appointment of Naomi Eisenstadt as the Scottish Government’s independent poverty adviser for another year.
Anti-poverty charities have previously put pressure on the government to legislate to comprehensively tackle the issue.
About 220,000 children are officially recognised as living in poverty, according to the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland.
A report by Ms Eisenstadt published in January put forward a series of recommendations to lift people out of poverty.
The Bill follows the UK Government’s decision last year to replace the Child Poverty Act, which established a duty for governments to eradicate the problem by 2020, with new legislation which will instead require ministers to report regularly on measures affecting a child’s life chances.
A consultation setting out proposals for the Scottish Government’s new legislation will be published over the summer.
Ms Sturgeon said: “It is simply unacceptable that children are growing up in poverty and we must do all we can to tackle the inequality that still exists in 21st-century Scotland.
“While we have made progress as a government through the child poverty strategy, it’s clear from feedback from my independent poverty adviser, Naomi Eisenstadt, and others that we must keep striving to do more, and we need to do more to enshrine our distinctly Scottish approach in law.
“The consultation and Bill will allow us to refine our approach and ensure it best meets the needs of those who so desperately need it, and I am delighted to announce it on the same day as I announce Naomi’s reappointment.
“Her work has provided hugely valuable insight into our proposals in tackling inequality and given the Scottish Government a clear focus for going forward.
“By repealing large parts of the Child Poverty Act 2010, including the income-based child poverty targets, the UK Government has signalled that they do not see child poverty and the incomes of poor families as priorities.
“That is fundamentally wrong. With the introduction of this new legislation, the Scottish Government is sending the message, in the strongest possible terms, that we profoundly disagree.
“We will be working closely with Naomi and others, including our ministerial advisory group on child poverty, to develop our proposals, reflecting the importance we continue to place on this challenge of protecting the most vulnerable in society.”
Ms Eisenstadt said: “Everyone in Scotland has a role to play in helping to eradicate child poverty and a new Child Poverty Bill is a positive, practical and constructive step forward which will place in statute Scotland’s welcome commitment to tackling child poverty.
“This legislation will maximise the chances that all people living in Scotland lead productive and healthy lives.
“We need to stop the cycle of poverty and prevent the next generation of young people being born into poverty.”
Campaigners welcomed Ms Sturgeon’s announcement.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This is excellent news in the drive to eradicate child poverty given the UK Government’s abandonment of statutory child poverty commitments.
“With one in five of Scotland’s children still living in poverty, it is vital that the new Bill includes ambitious targets as well as duties to measure and report on progress, and a strategic framework that will hold national and local government to account.”
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “This is an important and welcome announcement from the Scottish Government.
“We need focused and co-ordinated action to reduce poverty in Scotland and setting out in law what needs to be done will help bring about that action.
“If we are really to make progress towards eradicating child poverty, then we need a comprehensive national anti-poverty strategy that involves all parts and layers of government.”