Cost of living
Sturgeon demands energy reform and freezes costs
Nicola Sturgeon today announced there will be a freeze on household rents and ScotRail fares as well as a hike in child payments to help households cope with the rising cost of living.
She previewed her support measures by expressing regret that she could not do more, and more quickly, to combat the “escalating crisis” because the required powers still rest with Westminster.
Describing the crisis as a “humanitarian emergency”, Ms Sturgeon called on the new Prime Minister Liz Truss to take action similar to the Covid response.
It required reform of the energy market, freeze energy prices, more cash support for those struggling and increased funding for public services. The Scottish Child Payment will rise to £25 per week, applying to 400,000 under-16s from 14 November.
Her new measures build on almost £3bn of help to which the Scottish government is already committed.
She said the Scottish “budget today is worth a staggering £1.7 billion less than when it was published last December”.
But her plan for freezing rents drew an angry response from those in the lettings sector who accused her of scoring political points and deepening the housing crisis by forcing landlords to pull property out of the the rental market.
Among other measures, she said there will be a bill to introduce a tourist tax (local visitor levy).
The programme for the year ahead will also address longer-term challenges to build a “wealthier, fairer and greener country”. It includes:
- The government will encourage banks and other financial services firms to take an approach that maximises security for homeowners and businesses
- It will also raise the minimum threshold at which bank arrestments can be made, introducing regulations to give greater protection to those repaying debts through the Debt Arrangement Scheme, via a new Bankruptcy and Diligence Bill
- A Housing Bill will improve affordability for the longer term and provide new rights for tenants
- Eligibility for the Warmer Homes Scotland programme – helping households to install energy efficiency measures – will be extended
- A £25m Clyde Mission Decarbonisation Fund will be launched to support zero emission heat projects and communal heating systems along the length of the Clyde.
.Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Unfortunately, this programme falls woefully short of rising to the big challenges we face.
“The Prime Minister has changed, but sadly it’s the same First Minister directing blame elsewhere and seeking grievance with the UK Government.
“Both governments need to do more to tackle the cost of living crisis. But there’s no doubt the SNP are not delivering their side of the deal.
“When Scottish people are struggling with their bills, instead of the right level of help, they’ll get another unwanted bill from the SNP Government – an Indyref2 Bill.”
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said: “I want to welcome the change of heart from the SNP and the Greens when it comes to rent freezes.
“But there is more that this government can do. For almost a year now the Labour Party has been demanding action on the cost of living crisis.”
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