Cost of Living

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 20 April 2022.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government what financial resources it has allocated to help those across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders who are most impacted by the reported cost of living crisis. (S6O-00970)

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is taking a range of actions within our devolved powers to help people who are facing the impacts of higher energy bills, the increased cost of the weekly shop, the United Kingdom Government’s national insurance hike and interest rate rises. Our £290 million cost of living package builds on existing support, giving £150 to each household that receives a council tax reduction irrespective of what band their property is in and £150 to every other household in properties in bands A to D by the end of April. That equates to almost £7.3 million in Dumfries and Galloway and £5.4 million in the Scottish Borders.

In 2021-22, we allocated £80.75 million to local authorities for Scottish child payment bridging payments worth £520 in both 2020-21 and 2021-22, reaching more than 144,000 school-aged children as of December 2021. Our second child poverty delivery plan sets out how we will continue to tackle and reduce child poverty in Scotland, which includes investing up to £10 million each year to mitigate the UK Government’s benefit cap.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

The cost of living crisis has been a decade in the making, with rising costs compounded by damaging Westminster austerity. Does the minister agree that the UK Government should reverse the regressive national insurance tax hike and the £20-a-week cut to universal credit, that it should match the Scottish child payment UK wide and that it should introduce a real living wage of £9.90 per hour? Can he outline what representations have been made to the UK Government on those matters?

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

Given that most of the relevant powers are reserved, I agree that the UK Government must do more to help households to cope with the cost of living crisis. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy wrote to the chancellor ahead of his spring statement with vital proposals to address the cost of living crisis using those reserved powers, including a call to reinstate the £20 universal credit uplift. However, they were largely ignored and the chancellor failed to take the opportunity to address the biggest challenges that are currently faced by households.

I also agree that all workers should be paid at least the real living wage. Having employment powers in the hands of the Scottish Parliament would enable us to protect and enhance workers’ rights, including by making the minimum wage a real living wage. We will continue to call on the UK Government to take action to devolve those crucial powers.

In the meantime, we are already using the powers that we have. On 14 October 2021, we began mandating payment of the real living wage in Scottish Government contracts, where it is a relevant and proportionate requirement. Through the Bute house agreement and subject to the limits of devolved competence, we will also make it a requirement that grant recipients pay at least the real living wage.