Sturgeon: ‘our plans will focus on cost crisis’
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that tackling the cost crisis would be front and centre of the government’s plans for the year ahead.
However, she warned that her ministers are having to produce measures to help households amidst an “unprecedented cloud of Westminster uncertainty.”
Speaking ahead of the publication of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government on Tuesday,, Ms Sturgeon said: “The steps we outline this week will build on the actions we have already taken with the limited powers of the Scottish Parliament to support household budgets, such as the Scottish Child Payment, the Carers Allowance Supplement and the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
“However, the key levers in this crisis remain in the hands of the Tories at Westminster – a government which has been in hibernation over the summer as the Tory faithful choose who will be the fourth Prime Minister in six years.
“Their inaction has caused huge anxiety for families and huge uncertainty for businesses. It has been a dereliction of duty which people will neither forgive nor forget.”
Ms Sturgeon will unveil her programme amid speculation that her government will be forced to bring forward the Scottish budget in response to tax changes likely to be announced by Liz Truss who is expected to win the Tory leadership contest.
“At this most crucial of times, we are in the situation of announcing our plans for the year ahead in an unprecedented cloud of Westminster uncertainty,” said the First Minister.
“We don’t know if and when an emergency budget may happen, whether Scotland’s block grant is going to be cut this year, or what other measures they may introduce – all of which could fundamentally affect our plans,” she admitted.
Ms Sturgeon hit back at what she sees as attacks on the Scottish parliament and Scotland by both Tory leadership candidates. She was also claimed that promises of the benefits of the UK made at the time of the 2014 referendum have been broken.
“I will seek to work constructively with whoever becomes Prime Minister this week, although both candidates seem to have spent the campaign focussed on how they can undermine the Scottish Parliament or put Scotland in its place, rather than engage with the legitimate aspirations of the people of Scotland.
“People in Scotland will be watching carefully how Westminster responds to the current emergency facing the UK. The ‘broad shoulders’ that we were told existed in 2014 are nowhere to be seen, and the promise of remaining in the EU and of lower energy bills were evidently not worth the paper they were written on.
“Instead a decade of austerity, Brexit and brutal welfare cuts have contributed hugely to the current cost crisis.
“If Scotland was independent, we could have passed an emergency budget by now – taking action on energy bills, on VAT and on direct financial support as many other countries have done, to give much-needed assurance to households and businesses.
“Instead we are left wrestling with meeting the challenges of fair pay, household hardship and rising costs for public services without the tools we need to tackle them.
“As we continue to roll out the detailed prospectus for Scotland becoming an independent country, we will be showing how wealthy, resource-rich Scotland could be wealthier, fairer and happier – much like our comparable European neighbours are – with the full powers of self-government.
“As we count the increasing cost of living with Westminster, more than ever Scotland needs to seize that opportunity with both hands.”
The Scottish Conservatives said the SNP-Green coalition has failed to deliver on at least 26 policy pledges from last year’s Programme for Government.
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “This extensive list of broken promises – many of them on key SNP commitments – is a shocking catalogue of failure.
“But it’s hardly surprising. After all, this Nationalist government is so obsessed with pushing for another divisive independence referendum that it neglects the day-to-day business of running the country it is meant to be governing competently.”
Scottish Labour accused the SNP of a “summer of empty rhetoric” and will demand emergency legislation to tackle the cost of living crisis.
The party will move a motion calling for Parliamentary time to be set aside in the first week back to introduce an emergency Cost of Living Act.
They have said MSPs have “a moral duty to act”, urging other parties to back their calls.
The legal changes the party have championed include:
- A temporary rent freeze to protect tenants from soaring prices
- A ban on winter evictions to prevent a tidal wave of homelessness this winter
- Changes to laws on debt, including fairer rules on earnings arrestment and bankruptcy fees.