Nicola Sturgeon announces £20-a-week payment for Scotland’s poorest families

A payment aimed at helping low-income families in Scotland will be doubled to £20 a week from next year, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The SNP leader claimed the £10 increase of the Scottish child payment given to the country’s poorest families was the “boldest and most ambitious anti-poverty measure anywhere in the UK”.

While the doubled payments will reach over 100,000 children from April, Ms Sturgeon said she planned extend the child payment to all under-16s by the end of next year – making around 400,000 families eligible.

In a downbeat speech to close her party’s conference, Ms Sturgeon said the campaign for Scottish independence would “resume in earnest” at the end of winter, depending on the prevalence of Covid.

“Next year, Covid permitting, as we emerge from winter into spring, the campaign to persuade a majority of people in Scotland that our future will be more secure as an independent nation will resume in earnest,” she said.

The SNP leader repeated her pledge to hold a second independence referendum before the end of 2023, although Boris Johnson has so far refused to countenance Scotland having another vote.

“My message to the prime minister is this. If you have any respect at all for democracy, and if you have any confidence whatsoever in your argument against independence, you too will let the people decide,” said Ms Sturgeon.

Speaking at virtual event largely focused on the outbreak of the omicron variant, she argued that leaving the UK would give Scotland the “opportunity to repair the damage of Covid … in a way that aligns with our values and priorities”.

She told the SNP conference the mutated coronavirus variant could lead to a winter “tougher than most of us have ever experienced”.

With six cases of the new omicron strain having already been discovered in Scotland, she pledged: “If difficult decisions need to be made to keep us safe, we will not shy away from them.”

Ms Sturgeon asked Scots to “significantly step up and increase compliance” with existing precautions – asking the public to take a lateral flow test before mixing with people from other households.

Taking a different tack from Mr Johnson’s ministers, she also urged Scots to work from home if possible, and urged employers in Scotland to “maximise” home working.

Speaking earlier on Monday, Ms Sturgeon urged Downing Street to bring in “tougher” travel rules to tackle the spread of the new variant of across the UK.

She and Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford wrote to Mr Johnson to demand a “tightening” of curbs so all arrivals in UK have to self-isolate for eight days.

But No 10 rejected the devolved administrations’ calls for the self-isolation period for travellers to be extended, and said there was no Cobra meeting involving all four nations of the UK currently planned.

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