Covid-19 (Recovery Strategy) (Cost of Living Crisis)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 27 April 2022.

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Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of any potential impact on its Covid recovery strategy of the reported cost of living crisis. (S6O-00995)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is acutely aware of the impact that increases in the costs of energy, food, transport and other essentials are having on people across Scotland, and we are taking immediate action to support those who are most impacted by the cost of living crisis.

Our £290 million cost of living support package is supporting 1.85 million Scottish households, we are investing up to £113 million of additional investment through our tackling child poverty delivery plan and we have increased the value of a further eight Scottish social security benefits.

The key levers to address the cost of living crisis are reserved to the United Kingdom Government, but it has repeatedly failed to take the steps necessary to address the crisis. I take this opportunity to urge it either to take the steps that are required to protect people, or to devolve the powers that would allow this Government to take further action.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

For many people, this month’s pay cheque will be the first since the national insurance hike. That comes as energy bills skyrocket and new research reveals that folk face yet another hit, with the average food bill potentially increasing by a staggering £271 this year.

Will the Deputy First Minister outline what steps the Scottish Government is taking to support households that are facing not only acute challenges from the pandemic but a cost of living crisis of the Tory Government’s making? Does he share my view that Scotland’s recovery would be best served if this Government had the full powers over welfare, energy and the economy that would come with independence?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Before the Deputy First Minister responds, I urge that, in his response, he sticks to the question, which is to do with the Covid recovery strategy, among other things.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I agree with the point that Jackie Dunbar has made. The Government is taking a range of actions within the devolved powers that we have at our disposal and our limited resources to help people who are facing the cost of living crisis. Through our cost of living support measures and our spend on unique Scottish social security payments, which are not available elsewhere in the United Kingdom and include bridging payments and payments that mitigate the bedroom tax, we are set to invest almost £770 million in tackling the cost of living crisis this year. That is an indication of a Government that is engaged in addressing that crisis. I only wish that the United Kingdom Government would either engage in tackling the crisis or devolve powers to enable us to do exactly that.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

In yesterday’s debate on multiple sclerosis week, we heard that people living with MS face additional costs of between £600 and £1,000 a month. Can the cabinet secretary set out what specifically the Government is doing to support disabled people to meet the extra fuel costs during the cost of living crisis?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Again, if the Deputy First Minister could link his response to the Covid recovery strategy, that would be really helpful.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

There is a direct link to the Covid recovery strategy, Presiding Officer, in that at the heart of that strategy is the Government’s determination to tackle the inequalities that existed before the pandemic. As I have said, those inequalities affect many individuals with disabilities, and they were exacerbated by the pandemic—hence my answer earlier to Mercedes Villalba, as well.

The Government is focused, in the Covid recovery strategy, on tackling inequalities. The decision that the Government has taken to upgrade a number of Scottish benefits by 6 per cent is a substantive contribution to assisting individuals who will access those benefits—many of whom have disabilities—to be able to manage the significant challenges that households face. I do not in any way understate the significance of those challenges, which I recognise are acute. I only wish that the United Kingdom Government was contributing more to the process.