The first year of the Scottish executive has seen major progress. By 2002, the first target of 100,000 children - the equivalent of Hampden Park filled to capacity twice - lifted out of poverty will be met.
The executive is committing over£1.5bn to social justice measures, to complement tax and benefit changes introduced by the Westminster government since 1997.
Today will see another step in the right direction with the launch of the Scottish arm of the Child Poverty Action Group. As well as raising the profile of child poverty issues, the group provides user-friendly information and advice on welfare rights and benefits.
'Today I will unveil our progress towards the three most important social justice pledges: ending child poverty, delivering full employment and ensuring dignity in old age. Our vision is a Scotland where every child, regardless of family background, has the best possible start in life.
'The only way Scotland could lose this war on child poverty is by warring with Westminster. As a result of measures announced in the Budgets since 1997, we are on course to remove 100,000 Scottish children from poverty. Striking at the roots of poverty means joint action - so we are working closely with Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling to tackle poverty together.
'But poverty is also about poor health, bad housing and low aspirations. Poverty and illness often go hand in hand - children in Easterhouse are five times more likely than the UK average to die before their first birthday. That's why improving child health is a top priority for the Executive with a doubled maternity grant and new initiatives for expectant mothers, babies and toddlers.
'Damp housing contributes to childhood ill health and asthma. The Healthy Homes Initiative - to improve 100,000 houses suffering from dampness and condensation - is the biggest ever energy efficiency programme in Scotland. Only by large-scale new investment can we improve the homes our children are brought up in.
'On childcare, we are investing£42m through SureStart Scotland to improve services for the critical first three years of life, and we are keeping our promise that all three and four year-olds will have a nursery place by 2002. Sam Galbraith announced only last week that some 68 per cent of three year-old children are now in executive funded pre-school education. Take up amongst four year-olds is around 95 per cent.
'In the autumn we will publish the first ever Social Justice annual report for Scotland. We will tell the facts about our success and failures. Today we welcome the Child Poverty Action Group's arrival in Scotland and their contribution to tackling the problems affecting too many of our children.'
Action against child poverty
UK action to tackle family poverty, and as a consequence child poverty:
Working Families Tax Credit will benefit 130,000 families in Scotland by April 2001. Provides a Minimum Income Guarantee for families with one person in full-time work of£200 a week, no tax until£235 a week.
Child benefit - 36 per cent increase from 1997 to 2000; increase in April 1999 - an extra£2.95 for the eldest child - was the largest ever increase.
Scottish action to give children the best possible start includes:
57,753 4-year-olds currently benefit from a nursery place (97 per cent take-up). All 3-year-olds will have a part-time nursery place by 2002.
As of this year, total spending on school education in Scotland is in real terms at an all time high.
Administering the Sure Start Maternity Grant of£200, rising to£300, linked to contact with health care professionals for check-ups and expert advice.
Training 5000 new childcare workers to help meet the demand for childcare.
Helping young families from our more deprived areas access health, local authority and voluntary sector services by bringing these together under our£42m Sure Start Scotland programme
Securing the healthiest start to life by delivering health initiatives for expectant mothers, babies and toddlers including Starting Well - one of 4 health demonstration projects costing£15m and the test bed for integrated action to improve child health
Minimising disruption and upheaval for children by developing guidance and support for local authorities - minimising the use of inappropriate temporary accommodation, such as bed and breakfast accommodation, for families facing homelessness.