Emergency budget could increase Scottish Child Payment as Sturgeon says lives at risk due to cost-of-living crisis
Her comments came ahead the energy regulator, Ofgem’s, next price cap increase on Friday which the First Minister said should not be allowed to go ahead.
The Scottish Government could also be set to increase the amount provided to families through the Scottish Child Payment as part of an emergency budget to increase help for families in Scotland, business minister Ivan McKee said.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has also called for a freeze on energy bills to help reduce the pressure on household budgets and to tackle rampant inflation, while Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for emergency legislation including a rent freeze to be passed in Holyrood.
Both Conservative leadership hopefuls have promised they will help families with the cost-of-living once they are in Number 10.
Ms Sturgeon yesterday called on the UK Government to “take the action only it can take” and labelled the cost-of-living crisis a “looming disaster”.
She said: “There is a looming disaster that is already unfolding but it is going to get worse.
"This is going to cause destitution and devastation, this will cause loss of life if real action is not taken to stem this crisis.
"This further increase in people's energy bills can't be allowed to go ahead because it is making it impossible for people to provide the basics for themselves and their families, but it is also continuing to fuel inflation, which, of course, is causing the problem in the first place."
The SNP leader said renationalisation of energy companies “should be on the table”, but said it is important to “focus on reality” and push for the UK Government to act.
She said: “Let's focus on getting them to exercise the powers they have campaigned to keep in their hands rather than constantly deflect the questions to a government that doesn't hold these powers."
Her business minister, Ivan McKee, said that more money could be found for Scottish Government benefits in a potential emergency budget.
Mr McKee said the UK Government “hold most of the levers” but that the Scottish Government had already increased benefits such as the Scottish Child Payment, which could be increased further still.
"As we speak the Scottish Government are looking at what we can do by way of an emergency budget to put more money into that and other provisions that we’ve put in place to be able to support those families.
"Remember that none of this is in place south of the border.”
He added: “It is a hugely concerning situation, it is hugely concerning for families, it is very concerning for businesses.
"The approach to the solution to this needs to be about more than sound bites, it needs to be about concrete actions that all of us can take to make a difference and help businesses and families through this very very difficult time.
"What we’re calling for immediately from the UK Government is to not implement the price cap increase that is imminent and also very importantly to put in place a price cap for small and medium size businesses.
"I spoke to businesses...that are seeing their energy bills going from £10,000 to £45,000, it’s unsustainable for small businesses and that’s going to impact everybody right across the economy.
Mr McKee said the position of the Scottish Government on whether nationalisation of energy companies would be the right thing to do would be set out soon, but said all options “should be looked at”.
He said there will be five or six more papers forming part of the Scottish Government’s refreshed prospectus for independence, including one on energy.
However he would not be drawn on whether an independent Scotland would nationalise energy, only committing to the country examining the possibility of doing so.
In a motion submitted to the Scottish Parliament on Friday, Scottish Labour MSPs have called for the “bold use of existing tax powers” in order to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
Backed by backbenchers Alex Rowley, Foysol Choudhury, Monica Lennon, Paul Sweeney, and Mercedes Villalba, the motion calls on the Scottish Government to “review taxation arrangements” to make “more creative and bold use of existing powers”.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has consistently accused the SNP of not using the powers available to them to tackle crises.
On the cost-of-living crisis, he accused the government of “hiding money” that could be used to help those struggling.
He fell short of committing to backing tax increases, however, saying he did not believe there was a need for a rise in income tax, instead claiming money could be found within existing spending which could then be diverted to local authorities.
Scottish Government figures show a penny rise across all tax bands would result in an extra £463m for the Scottish budget.
A total of £150m would help pay for around a one per cent increase in pay for those in the NHS, or around 1.5 per cent for those in local government.
Income tax is the main revenue raising power available to the Scottish Government and was devolved following the 2014 independence referendum defeat.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are providing a £400 discount on energy bills this winter, and £1,200 of direct support for the most vulnerable households.
“While no Government can control global gas prices, over 22 million households are protected by the price cap which continues to insulate households from even higher prices.”
The fifth episode of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, is out now.
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