The goal of Scottish independence explains why the SNP was never going to focus on helping the poorest people cope with the cost of living crisis – Susan Dalgety

Treasury Secretary Kate Forbes could do more to help the poorest people cope with the cost of living crisis (Photo: Fraser Bremner/pool/Daily Mail/PA)

Inflation is at its highest level in 30 years, hitting 5.5% in January. Bank of England forecast suggests it still has some way to go, raising concerns about another hike in interest rates and mortgages.

But Treasury Secretary Keith Forbes looks calm in the face of the coming storm. She even gave her recent budget speech while battling morning sickness, a feat that can only be admired by those of us who still remember that pitiful feeling of nausea and dizziness.

Do better, Miss Forbes. I am not a fan of Guiliano, but in this case he is right. The Scottish Government recently received £290m from Chancellor Rishi Sunak to address the cost of living crisis. The money was the UK government’s response to a sharp increase in energy prices that will see household bills rise by nearly £700 from 1 April.

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Scottish Budget 2022-23: Decisions by Chancellor of the Exchequer Kate Forbes will re…

All but the richest members of society will have to tighten their belts to deal with this unprecedented rise, but for many Scottish households the choice will not be how many degrees they should turn the thermostat down, but between heating their home or eating. This is the reality of poverty.

Forbes could take advantage of Sunak’s windfall and do something revolutionary with her – protect the poor. The Scottish government has thousands of highly paid and highly qualified civil servants whose responsibilities include policy making. Really, new Permanent Secretary John-Paul Marks – or JP, as he prefers to call himself – is one of the UK’s leading experts on benefits policy.

Forbes could assemble a political team under JP’s watchful eye, task them with working with outside experts such as the Anti-Poverty Alliance as well as energy companies, and ask them to develop a plan to adequately protect the most vulnerable Scots.

I worked alongside political officials who were given short deadlines to develop complex policies. They will work 18 hours a day if they need to comply with the requirements of their minister. I have absolutely no doubt that if Forbes had asked for the developed Scottish scheme, the civil service would have developed one that worked.

Scottish Labor even offered her one for free. Their plan was to give £400 to anyone who received a Council Tax Reduction, Superannuation Credit, Child Winter Heating Help or Nursing Allowance Supplement, amounting to £238 million, leaving Forbes £52 million to investing in other measures such as the Fuel Security Fund.

Instead, she took the easy route and copied the Tory Chancellor by announcing a £150 council tax cut for all households living on AD group property, as well as anyone receiving a council tax cut. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Scots will benefit from the generosity of Sunak and Forbes, which could well earn them rewards in May’s council election, but will do nothing to address inequality.

A quick look at homes for sale in Edinburgh, in Morningside, one of the country’s most expensive areas, reveals a front door apartment is worth over £279,000. It is in council tax group C, which means the new owner of this very attractive home will receive the same £150 discount as a family of four living on minimum wage in a rented social apartment in Wester Hales, on outskirts of the city.

The Scottish government’s decision to emulate its Conservative counterparts speaks volumes about the SNP’s conservative approach to public finance.

Forbes and its boss Nicola Sturgeon, and before her Alex Salmond, didn’t get into government to change Scottish society. It was never their priority to redistribute wealth or use the significant powers under the 1999 devolution agreement to do business differently than in Westminster. Their main – some say, their only – priority is to use the state apparatus to persuade the Scots to leave the UK.

That’s why their policy initiatives are mostly aimed at mid-Scotland, which has everything from a council tax freeze (repealed just this year) to free prescriptions and no university tuition fees designed to appease those households that are most likely to , will be nervous about the price of independence.

But we live in unprecedented times. A generation of Scots too young to remember the dark days of the 1970s when inflation peaked at over 20%, or the 80s and early 90s when the benchmark interest rate was over 10%, is about to experience a financial tsunami of high prices . energy bills, rising food prices and increases in their rent or mortgage payments, and council tax increases.

Forbes had the opportunity to show real leadership when it set its budget. With a little imagination and the considerable brainpower of the Scottish civil service, she could come up with a bespoke scheme that would provide a lifeline for the most vulnerable households.

Instead, she took the lead of the Tory Chancellor. Hardly the actions of an independent politician.

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