Scotland’s Finance Secretary has urged the Chancellor not to “duck the considerable challenges we face” as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.
Speaking ahead of the spring statement expected on Wednesday – where Rishi Sunak will lay out plans to tackle rising gas prices and living costs – Kate Forbes pushed for action.
The Scottish Government announced last week it would be increasing eight benefits it provides by six per cent – and Ms Forbes urged her UK counterpart to do the same.
“This is not a time to be ducking the considerable challenges we face and I expect the Chancellor to use the spring statement to outline significant actions to support households and businesses, considering that most of the relevant powers are reserved to the UK Government,” the Finance Secretary said.
“The Scottish Government is doing all it can to help those most in need. We are uprating eight Scottish benefits by six per cent from April 1 as well as doubling our Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week per eligible child. I call again on the UK Government to follow our lead and uprate social security benefits by six per cent.”
Ms Forbes has also urged the Chancellor to implement business relief on national insurance contributions, providing immediate funding for sectors impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as removing VAT from energy efficient heat equipment and reducing or removing it altogether from energy bills.
The Finance Secretary added that there should be powers provided to increase levels of flexible working – to allow more people back into work – along with another two cold weather payments – one to be paid immediately and another provided this winter.
When I talk about security, yes – I mean responding to the war in Ukraine, but I also mean the security of a faster growing economy
The Chancellor is expected to use Wednesday’s statement to address the cost-of-living crisis but also stress the importance of a strong economy in responding to the threat of Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
“We will confront this challenge to our values not just in the arms and resources we send to Ukraine but in strengthening our economy here at home,” Mr Sunak is expected to say.
“So when I talk about security, yes – I mean responding to the war in Ukraine, but I also mean the security of a faster growing economy.
“The security of more resilient public finances.
“And security for working families as we help with the cost of living.”
Around £21 billion of support is expected to be announced on Wednesday, including £9.1 billion in energy bill rebates and freezing fuel and alcohol duties.