The Scottish Government has already cut £1.2 billion from its budget for this year in the face of rising inflationary pressures, with warnings that increases to public sector pay will require cuts from elsewhere in the budget.
Ms Sturgeon faced questions about the Scottish Child Payment and whether the £25 per week, which it was increased to this month, goes far enough in the cost-of-living crisis.
“I would love to take it further,” she said. “I would love to double it from that.
“This is where I have to be really honest with you – the Scottish Government within that fixed, eroding budget that I spoke about, we just don’t have the means to do that.
“Right now, with the way our budget is, if we were to try to increase it further we would have to take money from other parts of our budget that would have an impact on the children we’re trying to help.”
Ms Sturgeon also told the audience the Scottish Government was a “victim of our own success”, saying: “We try to do things, we try to say yes to things, and therefore I think sometimes we contribute to a view that we are able to do everything.
“Sometimes I think we’ve got to point out a bit more the sheer limitations of the budget.”
Questioned by another audience member about the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act, which set in law the Government’s target of bringing absolute child poverty below 5 per cent and relative child poverty below 1 per cent by 2030, the First Minister said the legislation was a “staging post”.
The questioner, from an anti-poverty charity based in Edinburgh, asked if the Act should be amended to “make a bold statement”, shifting the targets instead to the eradication of child poverty.
Ms Sturgeon replied: “I don’t think we need to go through a legislative process.
“Let me be very clear – my commitment is to eradicate child poverty, the Government’s commitment is to eradicate child poverty, but you’ve got to reduce it in order to do that.
“The targets in the Child Poverty Act, they don’t go as far as we need to go, but they are not going to be easy to meet.”
The First Minister stressed that as long as there was one person in poverty in Scotland, there remained “a job of work”, particularly in Government.
She went on to say the economic climate made the job of alleviating poverty even more difficult.
Ms Sturgeon thanked the Poverty Alliance for its help in shaping – and criticising – Government policy. She said: “I’m really grateful to all of you for your insights, your expertise, for your challenge and for your criticisms at times – a crucial part of the scrutiny that is necessary to push a government forward in the right direction.
“You have changed lives over these past 30 years, that’s something you should take great pride in, but there’s so much for all of us to do.”