Cost of Living Crisis

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

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The First Minister:

We will engage on that basis, and I am sure that the Deputy First Minister will be happy to have open discussions with any party about how we meet that challenge, as long as the starting point for any discussion is an acceptance of the reality that, if we want to spend more on anything this year—as, I think, all of us do—that money must be found elsewhere in our budget.

With regard to Anas Sarwar’s suggestions, we will consider everything in good faith. However, taking bus fares as an example, I point out that about half of the Scottish population—nobody under 22 or over 60—already do not pay for bus travel. That is a sign of how we are using the powers of this Parliament. On increasing money, I know that Labour called for an increase in the tenant hardship fund, but we have doubled the fuel insecurity fund and have committed to increasing the budget for discretionary housing payments. Further, we are extending free school meals beyond the limits set by any other Government in the United Kingdom, and, once the extensions that were announced earlier this week take effect, the Scottish child payment will deliver £1,300 in support for every eligible child under the age of 16. Again, that does not exist anywhere else in the UK. We are using our powers and we will continue to do so.

I will share some reflections by someone who is well known to Anas Sarwar:

“this week’s programme for government, announced by the First Minister, was a creative and coherent response to the poverty pandemic we are all facing ... Credit where it’s due. The SNP have been upfront in explaining what’s happening to the public finances and the principles underpinning their decisions.”

Those are comments by Kezia Dugdale, one of Anas Sarwar’s predecessors as Scottish Labour leader.