Sturgeon hair dryer

Sturgeon’s government has no intention of helping alleviate the cost-of-living crisis

THE UK IS FACING a hugely concerning cost-of-living crisis and the Scottish Government is failing to act.

We have seen the UK Government stepping up to help ease the rising financial pressures. The Conservative Government has already provided £37 billion of support, with three-quarters of it set to go to the most vulnerable households. We are about to see the £400 energy rebate take effect in October. And the UK Government is implementing a new Energy Price Guarantee, at £2,500 per year for the next two years, as well as fixing wholesale gas and electricity prices for firms for the next six months. It is this proactive support which will help us get through the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has failed to step up. Rather, Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP-Green coalition bleat about having insufficient powers, with the First Minister saying: “The powers to act do not lie with this Parliament. If they did, we’d have acted”.

But the powers do lie with this Parliament.

For example, as the Scottish Conservatives have proposed, the SNP and Greens could create a Cost-of-Living Support Fund, to provide additional support payments for the most vulnerable households.

Or they could deliver additional funding to local councils for supporting families at risk of being unable to make housing payments or buy essentials.

Or they could increase the single-person council tax discount to 35 per cent, saving £134 per year on an average property.

Or they could urgently review the knee-jerk, ill-informed opposition to nuclear energy and North Sea gas.

The long list goes on and on.

It is important not to forget also the Scottish Government could have set up a publicly owned energy company, as was announced by Nicola Sturgeon back in 2017.

But it didn’t.

Nicola Sturgeon, instead of admitting to another failure, blamed the inability to deliver on yet another promise on the COVID-19 pandemic preventing her; conveniently forgetting this did not start until three years after her first announcement but also after it was admitted nothing of substance had been done. She did however manage to spend £500,000 of taxpayer’s money on it with nothing at all to show.

The simple fact is the Scottish Government has all the powers required to help the people of Scotland.

One reason for the failure might be that SNP-Green Government has insufficient data to target support. Responding to my Parliamentary Question last month, ministers told me they don’t have statistics for how many people were in fuel poverty last year, or even in 2020.

The First Minister tries to say the cause of her Government’s failure is financial, stating: “It is not political will that stops us, it’s a lack of money.”

But the people of Scotland will see through that spurious claim, given the UK Government’s Autumn Budget provides the highest (non-Covid) funding settlement since the beginning of devolution, such that Scotland is £12 billion per year better off than it would be based simply on its tax receipts.

People also know that this Government underspent its budget by £650 million last year.

But above all, people know this is a Scottish Government squandering £20 million on its plans for another referendum, on top of the £1 million a year lavished upon a team of 22 civil servants whose job is to write a new prospectus for independence. Duplicate embassies are costing another £9m.

And, as we discovered recently, up to 2021 the SNP Government had wasted £4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money through delays and overspends.

In a global cost-of-living crisis, frivolous and wasteful spending such as this proves that the SNP Government’s priorities are not the same as those of the people it serves.

In fact, the Scottish Government’s failure to help support the people of Scotland through this crisis is a choice. It has chosen not to use its full range of powers. It has chosen to engage in wasteful spending. It has chosen to spend time and money fomenting grievance and promoting separation, all at a time when the whole UK needs to come together.

This Scottish Government must do more. The UK Government has proved it will step up. This Scottish Government has the powers and the money. What it lacks is the political will. And that is what needs to change.

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