Cost-of-living crisis: Scottish Government yet to decide what to do with £41m
The delay prompted accusations that ministers are “refusing to act” while thousands of households across the country struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table.
On May 26, the Treasury said Scotland would receive £41m in Barnett consequentials as a result of a £500m increase to the Household Support Fund in England.
This fund is aimed at vulnerable households in England, with Holyrood ministers told at the time to “urgently set out” how they planned to distribute this to low-income households.
But almost a month on, the Scottish Government has yet to announce what it plans to do with the money, and declined to say whether any statement on the issue would be made before Holyrood goes into recess at the end of next week.
The delay is in contrast to the rapid response to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first major cost-of-living announcement on February 3, when he confirmed a £150 council tax rebate.
Only a week later, finance secretary Kate Forbes announced her response, with three quarters of Scottish households also receiving a £150 rebate.
At the time, she admitted this scheme was imperfect, but stressed her priority was to give as many people as possible financial assistance “quickly and simply”.
The Scottish Government was asked if it had decided what to do with the £41m yet, whether it would all go towards alleviating the cost-of-living crisis and if there would be an announcement before Holyrood summer recess.
In response, it would only say work was “continuing” to ensure that any financial consequentials from the UK Government were allocated to those who needed it.
A spokeswoman said: “Scottish ministers have allocated almost £770m to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis this year.
“This includes work to tackle child poverty, reduce inequalities and support financial wellbeing, alongside social security payments for households which provides support that is not available anywhere else in the UK.”
Scottish Labour finance spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “The SNP’s lack of urgency dealing with this cost-of-living crisis absolutely beggars belief.
“Households are facing destitution as bills spiral, but the SNP are refusing to act despite sitting on millions of pounds.
“We don’t have time for the SNP’s usual dither and delay when people are struggling to put food on the table right now. They need to show some leadership and get this funding to those who need it.”
Philip Whyte, the director of the IPPR Scotland think-tank, added: “With inflation now matching its record high – and predicted to go higher still – families across Scotland will be facing severe financial difficulties.
“The scale of the crisis requires urgency and ambition, and for all available resources to be immediately directed towards hard-pressed households who, even accounting for recently announced support, will be barely keeping their heads above water.
“Getting this £41m into the pockets of the most vulnerable families is the least that can be done at this time – but further support, including the reallocation of existing budgets, cannot be ruled out.”
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.