Cost of Living Crisis

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 September 2022.

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The First Minister:

Again, I will address two aspects of that issue. In what I am about to say, I intend to be constructive, and I invite Labour to engage constructively on these points.

As I announced on Tuesday, we have confirmed a freeze on ScotRail fares until the end of March, and, yesterday, the Deputy First Minister said that, in the context of our emergency budget review, we will consider extending that further. We will also consider a range of other areas where we can go further to help people with the cost of living crisis. However, it is important—not just important, but inevitable and essential—that that is done in the context of that budget review. I set out starkly—as did the Deputy First Minister yesterday—the realities of our position, saying that our budget is worth £1.7 billion less than it was when we published it. We also face increasing pressures from issues such as public sector pay and the costs of housing Ukrainians, which none of us grudge at all. We cannot raise taxes within a financial year, we cannot borrow for day-to-day spending, and all of our reserves are already allocated. If we want to spend more on anything, we have to find other places in our budget to take the money from. That process started yesterday.

I say in all sincerity to Anas Sarwar that we will consider in good faith any suggestion that is made, but any suggestion that involves more spending in this financial year has to come with a saving from elsewhere. I encourage and ask Anas Sarwar to engage with that part as well.