Cost of Living Crisis

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 11 January 2024.

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Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on what steps it is taking to address the cost of living crisis. (S6O-02954)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

Despite the difficult financial settlement from the United Kingdom Government, this Government is doing everything that it can, with the powers available to it, to support people and communities through the cost of living crisis.

We are investing a record-high £6.3 billion in social security benefits and payments. That is £1.1 billion more than the level of funding that is forecast to be received from the UK Government through the social security block grant adjustments, helping low-income families and disabled people with their living costs.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

Earlier this week, I visited Advice Direct Scotland, which is funded by the Scottish Government. According to its stats, more people from my constituency than from any other constituency in the country have contacted it for energy advice. I believe that its outreach work across the country, including in my constituency, has led to some of the increase. It will also be attending a session at 7 1/2 John Wood Street in Port Glasgow tomorrow.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that it is vital that people reach out for support when they need it? Does she also agree that, in energy-rich but fuel-poor Scotland, we see yet another damning indictment of Scotland’s place in the union?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I agree with Stuart McMillan’s assessment. It is deeply concerning that we see so many people still in poverty. That is why the First Minister made an announcement about the fuel insecurity fund very early on when he came into post. He recognised its importance within the limited powers that we have to try and tackle poverty. The vast majority of those powers lie with Westminster, which has walked away from supporting people with the cost of living, particularly those who are living in fuel poverty.

We will do everything that we can, which includes funding Advice Direct Scotland and others who provide such valuable advice to people at times of crisis.

Photo of Paul O'Kane Paul O'Kane Labour

One thing that will not help with the cost of living crisis is slashing the affordable housing supply budget by more than a quarter in real terms in the coming year. Anti-poverty charities such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have used words such as “disappointing”, “brutal” and “baffling” to describe the decision. Surely access to affordable housing is the bedrock of dealing with cost of living pressures. When will the Government recognise that there is a housing emergency on its watch and take action—including by reviewing its budget decisions, which are exacerbating the cost of living crisis?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I would be more than happy to meet the member to discuss the matter—as would the Minister for Housing, I am sure—so that he can tell us in detail how we are supposed to deal with a 10 per cent cut to the Scottish Government’s capital budget while still increasing budgets, as he has demanded. Paul O’Kane is of course absolutely within his rights t o come to the chamber and ask for more money. If he wants to get into a genuine discussion about how to help with housing and homelessness, my door is open—and the Minister for Housing’s door is open—so we can discuss where the money would come from, and get past the headlines and into the details.