Cost-of-living crisis: Why the mini-Budget is 'last chance' to prevent fuel poverty for millions

The cost-of-living crisis is the biggest threat facing households and businesses right across Scotland and the UK.

With each day that passes – and with winter fast approaching – people are feeling the pinch and the pressure over how they will pay off their everyday bills or put food on the table.

Rocketing energy bills, higher food prices and Brexit hammering the economy and businesses – the UK Government must rise to the scale of the challenge, otherwise it risks pushing many more people into poverty and forcing businesses to pull down their shutters.

However, the grim reality is that rather than getting a grip on the crisis and delivering a targeted package of measures to protect households and businesses, the plans trailed so far not only fall shamefully short of what is needed, but they also shine a light on the warped priorities of the Tory Government.

The SNP is warning millions could end up in 'devastating' fuel poverty this winter

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Reported plans to scrap the cap on bankers' bonuses, a reverse Robin Hood tax by forcing taxpayers to foot the hefty bill for the energy bill hike, cutting taxes for the rich while forcing ordinary families to shoulder the full burden of the crisis, and failing to expand the windfall tax on companies raking in excess profits, are a recipe for disaster.

Calls for real support have so far fallen on deaf ears in Whitehall, but the Tories cannot look the other way any longer. This is the last chance for Liz Truss and her Chancellor to introduce a targeted package of support, including a real freeze on energy bills, otherwise they risk consigning millions to a devastating winter of fuel poverty.

As the ink dries on the Chancellor's statement, it is vital that his plan puts money into the pockets of ordinary people struggling to get by, alleviates the burden facing businesses, and abandons the dangerous austerity-riddled path the Tories are heading towards.

The SNP has been clear that we need to take the path that secures a fair economic recovery, including scrapping the unacceptable energy bill hike and introducing a real freeze, targeting more support at low and middle-income families, funded by an expanded windfall tax on companies making excess profits, and strengthening financial support for businesses.

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The UK Government would do well to look to its neighbours and match the ambition and action, with the EU adopting a fairer approach in recent days, including through a windfall tax on energy companies making excess profits.

Meanwhile in Scotland, the SNP Government is using its limited powers to benefit low and middle income families by increasing the game-changing Scottish Child Payment to £25 per child per week, freezing rents, freezing rail fares, and expanding universal free school meals.

By refusing to rise to the scale of the challenge, the UK Government is not only looking increasingly isolated and out of step, but it is demonstrating yet again that energy-rich Scotland would be better off as an independent country with the full powers at its disposal to protect families and maximise our energy potential.Because of Westminster control, Scotland is subject to a Tory Government that is moving ever more to the right, prioritising cancelling the cap on banker’s bonuses while keeping the benefit cap and while the vast majority of people take a hit to their living standards because of Brexit.

The only way to secure a fair economic recovery and build a more prosperous society is to become an independent country.

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- Alison Thewliss is the SNP's shadow chancellor.

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