Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) general secretary Roz Foyer called on the UK Government to use Wednesday’s Spring Budget Statement to scrap the increase in national insurance contributions that is planned for April.
It comes as the politicians come under increasing pressure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, with the leaders of Scotland’s three largest Christian churches also uniting in a call for action.
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The leaders of the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church said they were “deeply concerned” about the impact of rising prices, warning some families will face the “grim choice between eating or heating” as a result.
In a statement, Lord Wallace, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Hugh Gilbert, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, and the Most Reverend Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, urged “pragmatism and compassion” from politicians in a bid to find “effective solutions to this very serious and worsening situation”.
Meanwhile, the STUC called for a windfall tax to be introduced and also demanded a “substantial” cut in fuel duty.
Ms Foyer raised her concerns in a letter to the Chancellor ahead of Wednesday’s key statement.
She said: “As our letter makes clear, it would be unconscionable – if not morally repugnant – that working families will see their national insurance go up whilst those multi-billion-pound profiteers at the top go unchecked.
“Workers did not cause the cost-of-living crisis – government inaction did. Our most vulnerable should not foot the bill and we’re calling on the UK Government to reverse their planned national insurance rise which targets workers across Scotland.
“We need an immediate windfall tax on those who sought to seek profit from a pandemic.
“The responsibility for this falls to the UK Government and there should be no stone left unturned to support our members in their time of need.”
Steven Grant, secretary of the cab section branch of the Unite Scotland trade union, spoke about the need for a “substantial and long lasting” cut in fuel duty.
“A piecemeal, tokenistic reduction just won’t cut it,” he said
“After almost two years of reduced earnings with Covid wreaking havoc on our livelihoods and trade, it’s entirely within the power of the UK Government to act and ease the burden felt by hundreds of our members.
“It’s utterly unsustainable and, frankly, cruel to expect our branch members – some of the workers most impacted by the pandemic – to shoulder the increasing cost of fuel and energy.”
The union leaders spoke out at the same time as the leaders of Scotland’s three largest Christian churches urged politicians at Westminster and Holyrood to put aside their differences and find “effective solutions” to the cost-of-living crisis.
The religious leaders said the cost of living was “rising fast”, with energy bills expected to “increase significantly” next month.
They warned: “This will hurt low-income families more than most and push more people into deep poverty, creating for some the grim choice between eating or heating.
“These are not luxuries, they are the very basics.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.