Speaking to BBC Scotland on Thursday evening, John Swinney said the Scottish Government was acting against a “tide” of various changes from the UK Government that “create more poverty”.
A briefing paper published by Audit Scotland on Thursday showed around a quarter of children in Scotland were living in poverty between 2017-20, an increase of 3% since figures collated between 2011 and 2014.
“Child poverty is lower in Scotland than it is in other parts of the United Kingdom and that’s a consequence of steps we have taken in relation to measures such as the Scottish Child Payment,” Mr Swinney said.
I think the UK Government will take measures that will frankly, increase poverty and inequality in our society.
“The difficulty we face in all of these matters is that we are trying to take measures to address the issue of child poverty, but we’ve got to act against a tide of various changes in policy in the UK Government which frankly, create more poverty.
“So the changes in benefit policy by the UK Government have created more poverty in Scotland.
“The decision the UK Government took to reduce Universal Credit creates more poverty in Scotland.
“We need to do as much as we possibly can do with the resources we have available to us to reduce child poverty.”
The Perthshire MSP argued the Scottish Government was making progress in tackling poverty and said a range of policies were in place such as the Scottish Child Payment and the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
He said: “I would defy anybody to challenge the value of policies such as school clothing grants or the work we are doing on the pupil equity funding in trying to tackle and reduce levels of poverty.”
Ahead of the Chancellor’s mini-budget on Friday, Mr Swinney voiced concerns it would be a “renewed attack” on already vulnerable people.
He added: “If we are facing the wave of measures taken by the UK Government, more of which we will probably see tomorrow, which are designed to attack those who are already in poverty and create more poverty, we’ve got a bigger challenge we need to address.
“What I fear is going to come tomorrow is a renewed attack on the most vulnerable people.
“I think the UK Government will take measures that will, frankly, increase poverty and inequality in our society.
“The challenge we face in trying to address these issues will remain all the graver as a consequence of the decisions the UK Government take.”
Mr Swinney argued for public spending to be prioritised and said the Scottish Government budget was under “acute pressure” due to the effect of rising inflation.
He urged the UK Government to rethink the proposed scrapping of the national insurance rise that had previously been put in place by former chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed the move ahead of his mini-budget in the House of Commons on Friday after Prime Minister Liz Truss pledged to scrap the hike during the Conservative leadership election in the summer.