FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon brands Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement impact on benefits ‘disgusting and indefensible’

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The First Minister quoted analysis from social change charity the Joseph Rountree Foundation (JRF), which estimated 600,000 people in the UK will be pulled into poverty as a result of the increase in National Insurance and the failure to increase benefits in line with inflation.

According to the JRF, families in poverty will be £446 worse off in the next financial year compared to if benefits had been increased in line with current inflation levels.

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The Resolution Foundation, a living standards think tank, said the statement could leave 1.3 million people on the verge of “absolute poverty”.

Asked at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday for her reaction to the statement, Ms Sturgeon recommended MSPs read the JRF analysis.

“The richest decile will see their incomes fall by less than two per cent, the poorest decile will see their incomes fall by almost six per cent,” she said.

“That is mainly down to the failure to properly uprate benefits, and given that the chancellor had access to more money, the decision not to do that is disgusting and completely indefensible. “

Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar urged Nicola Sturgeon to do more to support Scots struggling with the cost of living.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minster’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday March 17, 2022.

Mr Sarwar accused the First Minister of plans that are “simply not good enough”, adding that the UK Government Chancellor Rishi Sunak “must have been taking lessons on missed opportunities from this First Minister and her government’s budget.”

Mr Sarwar called for a freeze to water charges and a £100 rebate to all households from the “cash mountain of £428 million” held by state-owned Scottish Water.

He also sued a windfall tax on oil and gas giants, £400 support payment to struggling families and freeze on rail fares.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is doing all it can to support struggling families without independence.

Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar during First Minster’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday March 10, 2022.

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Spring statement 2022: Rishi Sunak under fire for not doing enough as living sta…

“We have limited powers and we have limited resources, but due to our wider long-standing policies, people here already pay less than average in council tax, less in water bills, less on rail fares,” she said.

“People in Scotland compared to south of the border pay nothing for prescriptions, for eye tests, for university tuition… we have taken the decision to uprate returned benefits by six per cent, and it’s the failure south of the border to do that that’s having the biggest impact on low-income families.

“We’ve introduced the Scottish child payment, we’re investing in the Scottish welfare fund, we’re increasing the fuel insecurity fund.”

She added: “Anybody who is about helping the lowest-paid would be arguing for and demanding powers and resources to be taken out of the hands of Rishi Sunak and his type and put into the hands of this parliament.”

Mr Sarwar dismissed the First Minister’s response as “simply not good enough”.

“People are struggling right now, and as per usual, the First Minister wants to make this a constitutional debate,” he said.

“I hate to break it to her but whether you voted yes or no your bills are still going up and you need help from this government.

“The First Minister can take action to tackle the cost of living crisis.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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