Low-income families will get a boost before Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The key policy of his speech at the SNP conference in Aberdeen was to double the payment made to the families of almost 150,000 children.
The First Minister has said the Scottish Government will double the money given in transition payments to families where children are entitled to free school meals.
READ MORE:SNP Conference: ‘No one should be cut off because they can’t afford gas and electricity’, says Glasgow MP
The payments were worth £130, but Sturgeon said the next installment would be doubled.
She said: ‘Rather than looking forward to Christmas, too many families will dread it.
“They dread it because they don’t know if they can afford to heat their house or even pay for food.”
She said that over the past year quarterly ‘transition payments’ of £130 have been made.
The FM said the payments went to “children and young people who receive free school meals, but are not eligible for the child payment”.
She announced: “The final installment – before the children’s payment is extended and due in the coming weeks – will not be £130. We’ll double it to £260.
“It will help put food on the Christmas table for the families of 145,000 children and young people.”
READ MORE: Union leaders back Nicola Sturgeon for ‘hating the Tories’ and call for ‘fair pay rises’
She added: ‘I hope this investment of almost £20 million will bring some Christmas cheer to those who need it most.’
The announcement was well received by anti-poverty campaigners.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “This is really good news for thousands of families of school-aged children who are struggling to make ends meet in the face of soaring food and fuel prices.
“An extra £130 makes a real difference when cupboards are empty, debts mount and children’s wellbeing suffers.
“More support will inevitably be needed in the months ahead from all levels of government, but the Prime Minister has heard the calls, listened to the evidence and acted in the face of extraordinary cost of living pressures”
In her closing speech to the three-day conference, the First Minister rallied her party ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on whether a second independence referendum is within the powers of the Scottish Government, without the British government approval.
She said the cost of living crisis was a reason for independence, not an argument against it.
The British government, under the leadership of Liz Truss, she said, “has wreaked havoc on the markets with its decision to borrow billions of pounds to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.”
She said the UK government was creating ‘loans to be repaid through mind-boggling austerity cuts and a raid on the incomes of the poorest’.
The actions were, she said, “inadmissible.”
READ MORE: The SNP wants to raise the school age for children in Scotland to six: do you agree?
The FM posed a question it says it is often asked – “why propose a referendum in the midst of a cost of living crisis?”
She said, “The answer is in the question. The answer is the cost of living crisis.
“This is the Conservatives’ response to this. It’s financial chaos. And that is the damage of Brexit.
“All of this lays bare, every day, the harm done to people in Scotland because we are not independent.”
Sturgeon said she would draw up economic plans for an independent Scotland based on energy resources next week.
She said: “One week today we will post the next in our Building in New Scotland
series of papers.
“It will make an economic case for independence.
“He will explain how we can build a new sustainable economy based on our huge
renewable energy resources.
“It will show how, in an independent, energy-rich Scotland, we can deliver lower prices and stronger security of supply.”
The economic prospectus would propose, she said, “investing the remaining oil revenues and using our borrowing power, not to cut taxes for the wealthy, but to create an independent investment fund.” .
Sturgeon added: “The Building a New Scotland Fund will provide up to £20 billion of investment in the first decade of independence.”
She said he could support a massive program to decarbonize housing, cut fuel bills
and reduce energy poverty.
Adding: ‘It could fund the construction of thousands of more affordable homes.’