Even as we pass midsummer, and – in between the showers – enjoy some sunshine, the Tory-created cost of living crisis is never far from folks’ minds.
I have heard from fuel poverty and energy advice services in the Highlands and Islands that they continue to experience high levels of demand for support far beyond the normal for this time of year.
The main cause of this unprecedented demand is the eye-watering 54% Energy Price Cap hike of 1st April. I know that the grim forecast of a 51% increase on 1st October already has frontline services concerned for the coming winter.
For that reason, I welcome the announcement of the Scottish Government’s new Low Income Winter Heating Assistance Benefit, which is set to replace the UK Government’s Cold Weather Payments from February 2023.
The new benefit will become the 13th social security payment introduced by the SNP Scottish Government and will guarantee an annual payment of £50 to around 400,000 low-income households.
The UK Government’s Cold Weather Payments require seven consecutive days below zero degrees to be triggered, whilst this new payment from the Scottish Government will provide a reliable and guaranteed payment in winter, no matter the weather.
As I write this, we are expecting further news on plans for a referendum on independence in 2023.
This comes on the back of the recent public of the first in a series of Scottish Government documents that will pave the way to that referendum.
This Building a New Scotland paper shows how other comparable nations are wealthier, happier and fairer than Scotland currently is under Westminster control.
I truly believe that Scotland has everything it takes to be a hugely successful nation – yet Westminster control has held it back while comparable countries of a similar size prosper.
A decade of Tory austerity coupled with a Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for has made us poorer. As the cost of living crisis deepens it’s right that the Scottish Government lays bare the cost of living with Westminster in this series of papers.
Scotland has the ambition to be a better nation – but it’s only with the full powers of independence that we can make that hope a reality.
The recent debate on social care charges gives a real-life example of this.
Ending all non-residential social care charges in this current parliament will be a huge achievement, and it’s a bold ambition.
I respect Labour saying, ‘do it faster’. It is a healthy pressure for an opposition party to put on a government and I think we all want to get this support out as quickly as possible to those who need it here and now.
It’s just a shame Scottish Labour won’t lend support to the SNP’s calls for further fiscal powers to be devolved to allow borrowing and other decisions that would make more money available for public spending, or, otherwise, say what spending in other areas they think should be cut. That is what makes Labour’s demands unrealistic.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.