IT is no secret that the cost of raising a child is becoming more expensive in Scotland.

Recent figures suggest that families in my Dumbarton Constituency will spend approximately �160 per week to meet the minimum needs of raising a child from birth until the age of 18. This equates to over �148,000 in a shared income household.

In real terms the cost of bringing up a child has increased by four per cent this year, yet the minimum wage has only risen by 1.8 per cent. This has resulted in a major cost of living gap for families across our local communities, particularly as the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition at Westminster has failed to increase child benefit payments this year, despite the rising cost of inflation.

The Child Poverty Action Group report that the value of both child benefit and child tax credit relative to the costs of raising a child has decreased since 2012, with many low-income families also struggling with cuts to their housing support following the introduction of the Tory 'bedroom tax'. So I am clear that the Tories and the Liberal Democrats are letting children and families down, but I am equally clear that the SNP Government could do more than they are doing to protect people. We cannot allow the Tory/Lib Dem Government and Scottish Government to simply ignore the problem of the growing cost of living gap. Families need to be able to support their children, but the SNP government is doing little to support them.

Child poverty rates remain stubbornly persistent and there is little action to improve the life chances of some of Scotland's young people. Key to this is childcare. The SNP has been promising to deliver affordable childcare since 2007, yet year after year this promise remains broken. And they won't deliver any more affordable childcare until after the referendum. Yet childcare is a devolved responsibility, you don't need any change to the constitution of the country to deliver affordable childcare now.

Many parents are denied employment opportunities because of the cost of childcare which has risen by six per cent in this year alone. If we are to support economic recovery, as well as supporting families, then the SNP need to stop any further delay and invest in childcare now.

It is also the case that the SNP can do something to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax. No one wants to see people evicted because of the additional cost of the bedroom tax. The SNP government can legislate and they can put money on the table to help local authority and housing association tenants, particularly those who are disabled. Yet they choose to do nothing, telling everyone to wait until after the referendum. That is truly cynical politics - they have the power to do something now, but prefer instead to use the plight of vulnerable people to further their independence cause.

The Scottish Parliament was created by Labour for times like this. Let's use its powers to protect the people we serve.