While Boris Johnson has negated the responsibility of his office to insist that “making significant fiscal decisions” to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis is a matter for the next Prime Minister, Scotland’s First Minister has chaired the Scottish Government Resilience Committee to discuss urgent steps to mitigate the growing cost emergency which is affecting people and businesses.
During the first weekly meeting on Thursday, Scottish Ministers assessed the current situation and likely scenarios in the months ahead and agreed a number of immediate actions.
The SNP Government will:
Continue to maximise direct financial assistance available to those most in need, principally through ongoing work to extend eligibility for and increase the value of the Scottish Child Payment
Undertake an emergency budget review to assess any and all opportunities to redirect additional resources to those most in need, reduce the burdens on business and stimulate the Scottish economy
Consider urgently all options within devolved powers for regulatory action to limit increases in costs for people, businesses and other organisations
Bring together energy companies, banks and food retailers to examine what further help can be provided by these businesses to limit cost increases and protect those most vulnerable
Work with partners to strengthen the safety net of emergency food/fuel provision, prioritising a 'cash first' approach
Provide further advice to households on using energy more efficiently and reducing consumption
In addition to doing everything possible within its powers, the SNP Government is renewing its call for urgent and substantial action from the Tory Government including:
An immediate doubling of adirect financial support already provided, with payments made by October. It is estimated that for an out-of-work couple with two children, the payments already announced by the UK Government fall around £1,600 short of meeting the recent changes to benefits and living costs – a gap that must be filled
Cancellation of the forthcoming increase in the energy price cap, followed by urgent work between the government and energy companies on energy market reforms and associated financing options to ensure sustainable costs for consumers in the long term
The urgent introduction of an energy price cap for Small and Medium Enterprises
Support for business to prevent closures due to energy price rises and investment in economic stimulus to minimise the scale of the projected recession
A further windfall tax to ensure nationalisation of the profits being made out of the current pressures
Additional funding to support public sector pay increases and protect the recovery of public services from the pandemic
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“In the absence of substantial and urgent action, this emergency will cause acute deprivation and suffering. It will affect access to practical necessities for millions of people across the UK. Bluntly, it will cost lives.
“Even with current mitigations, it is estimated that at least 700,000 households in Scotland - 30% of all households - will be living in extreme fuel poverty by October. That number could be even higher, if the Ofgem price cap for October 2022 is £2,874 as anticipated.
“It is essential, therefore, that the response from government at every level is commensurate, in scale and speed, to the nature and magnitude of the emergency.”