Scotland’s Trades Union Congress (STUC) has issued a call for further Scottish Government intervention on the cost of living crisis as it co-hosts a nationwide summit on the issue.
Speaking ahead of the summit, co-hosted by the charity, Poverty Alliance, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer told The Ferret that “the time for warm words and platitudes from the political class” was “long over,” claiming it was time to speak out.
She accused the Scottish Government of making “a deliberate choice” not to provide further support.
In reply the Scottish Government said it is investing almost £770m this year through a package of measures including “social security support not available anywhere else in the UK”.
With concerns mounting about the impact of the cost of living crisis, the event, held on Friday 17 June, brings together unions with civic and community organisations across Scotland.
“We have suffered through a decade of UK Government spending cuts,” Foyer said. “In the midst of a cost of living crisis, we cannot allow for tartan Tory austerity from the Scottish Government to cut over 30,000 of our public service pandemic workers.
“Workers being tossed onto the scrapheap whilst inflation, energy and rent skyrockets is a deliberate choice from the Scottish Government.
“They can choose an alternative. Invest in our public sector, defend our pandemic workers and deliver the cost of living support they all desperately need.”
A spending review announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes last month included real-terms cuts to the education, culture, external affairs, justice and local government budgets.
At the time, Forbes said it was necessary for the Scottish Government to “reshape and refocus the public sector post-Covid,” but said she had limited powers to tackle the cost of living crisis.
Ahead of the spending review, Forbes wrote to the UK government demanding urgent action on the cost of living including emergency cash payments, an uplift to Universal Credit and an increase in the National Living Wage.
“Although both the UK and Scottish Governments are faced with the same crisis in the cost of living, we do not have the same fiscal or regulatory powers to respond to these challenges,” she wrote.
“We are doing as much as we can within our resources, but, without the powers to control these policy levers ourselves, the UK Government must do more.”
Attendees at today’s summit are expected to back the STUC’s demands for public sector pay rises, universal free school meals and rent freezes to tackle the cost of living crisis, all of which are within the powers of the Scottish Government.
A snap poll conducted by the STUC and Opinium on last month’s local council election polling day found that the cost of living was the top issue for 75 per cent of the Scottish electorate, ahead of the NHS, housing, Brexit and the constitution.
This week, Dundee City Council became the first local authority in Scotland to declare a cost of living emergency.
Neil Cowan, policy and campaigns manager at the Poverty Alliance, told the Ferret: “The only way that we can make lasting change when it comes to poverty is through co-operation and solidarity.
“We’re hopeful that by bringing together trade unions and voluntary and community groups, we’ll be able to create a platform that puts compassion and justice at the very heart of public life,” he added.
“When that happens, we can start to make real progress in rebuilding and renewing our social security safety net, making sure everyone has an adequate income, investing in the public services we all rely on, and building a better future for the generations to come.”
The summit will be held in Glasgow and will hear from more than 40 unions and organisations, representing the first time the union, community and civic sectors have come together to demand action on the crisis.
A Strain on Scottish Families
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said cost of living rises were “putting a huge strain on some families who are facing unforeseen challenges.”
“That is why Scottish Government is investing almost £770 million this year through a package of measures including social security support not available anywhere else in the UK,” they added.
“This includes the Scottish Child Payment, which has doubled, and uprating Scottish Government-delivered benefits by six per cent – action unmatched by the UK Government. We have also called on the UK Government to use its powers to provide a more sustainable support package.”
The spokesperson said that Scottish Ministers’ public sector pay policy was “progressive” and “gives greater protection to public sector workers on lower incomes, meaning action is targeted towards those worst impacted by rising costs.”
Cover Photo Credit: iStock/Doucefleur