The cost-of-living crisis highlights the need for Scotland to become independent, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The Scottish First Minister and SNP leader said the crisis, which has left some families unable to feed their children, is at the forefront of next month’s local elections.
Speaking at the People’s Pantry – which supplies food to struggling families – in the Govanhill area of Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon launched her party’s campaign for the ballot on May 5.
She said Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are “out of touch” with the needs of Scottish people, despite holding a wealth of powers on issues such as welfare.
Ms Sturgeon said independence is not a “magic wand” but she stressed it will help the country control all of its resources to support those most in need.
When asked by the PA news agency if her focus on the cost-of-living crisis means the push for independence has been put on the backburner, she said the SNP won a mandate for a second referendum at the Scottish Parliament election last year.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The mandate for an independence referendum is there. I’ve set out the fact that work is under way for that and the timescale we’re working on has not changed.
“This election is about local services, local leadership, it’s about the cost-of-living crisis.
“We’re living through times right now that are more serious in terms of people’s abilities to feed their children and heat their homes than most of us have ever experienced.
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are out of touch with this and are not doing nearly enough and therefore it is an opportunity for people to send that message loudly and clearly.
While it is a local election, she said it is still an opportunity for Scots to send a message to Mr Johnson about the “worst cost-of-living crisis we’ve ever faced”.
She said: “Boris Johnson holds most of the levers here to help and therefore I think every election is an opportunity to send a message to those in power.”
A Yes vote in a referendum on independence, which could take place before the end of 2023, would give the Scottish Government the ability to better support local authorities, Ms Sturgeon said at the launch.
She said returned powers have enabled the Scottish Government to introduce a Scottish Child Payment of £20 per week, but more welfare powers would enable it to further support the lowest income families in the country.
She added: “Independence for any country is not a magic wand. It doesn’t automatically fix all the problems and challenges a country face.
“What it does do is put all of your available resources and levers on power into your hands.
“Right now the big levers over the cost-of-living crisis and the totality of the budget that we have to spend is determined by Westminster, and therefore by Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak.”