FMQs: 'There is no Scottish independence answer' to cost-of-living crisis, says Anas Sarwar

Anas Sarwar attacked Nicola Sturgeon for making the cost-of-living crisis a constitutional issue as he called for the SNP to back Labour’s plans for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

The Scottish Labour leader said “there isn’t an independence answer to this” when the First Minister said he should join her calls to Westminster to devolve powers which would allow Holyrood to legislate for such a tax in Scotland.

SNP MPs in the House of Commons tabled a motion calling for a windfall tax on any company that benefitted from increased profits connected to Covid-19 or the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

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Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh.

However, Mr Sarwar attacked Ms Sturgeon for the SNP’s failure to back Labour’s plan for a specific tax on oil and gas companies.

Accusing the First Minister of making the cost-of-living debate about the constitution, the Labour leader called for Ms Sturgeon to use more of the powers available to her.

He said: “I hate to break it to the First Minister, the cost-of-living crisis is right now. There isn’t an independence answer or constitutional answer to this question.

"People’s bills are going up whether they vote Yes or No, and simply just pointing at the Tories and saying ‘well they could have acted’, but not using your own powers here simply isn’t good enough.”

The First Minister said: “We are using the power. We are doubling the Scottish Child Payment, the gamechanger policy, according to child poverty campaigners, so where we have the power we use that.”

Mr Sarwar accused the First Minister of not using the powers available to her to do enough for those struggling, stating the £150 council tax policy was simply a copy of the Conservative policy in London.

He echoed the opinion of many charities which have said there were more progressive options open to the Scottish Government which it rejected.

The Scottish Labour leader said: “People’s energy bills are going up by at least £700, fuel is estimated to go up to over £2 a litre, food prices are on the rise and, at the same time, we have two governments lacking ambition.

"This crisis is only getting worse. Warm words won’t keep the bills down, this Government must step up to the challenge that Scots face right now.

"Stop tinkering around the edges and provide the support the people of Scotland need.”

Ms Sturgeon offered Mr Sarwar the option of signing a joint letter from the Scottish Government calling for Westminster to introduce a windfall tax or devolve the powers to Holyrood to allow Scotland to do so.

"He has chosen to come here today and major on the issue of a windfall tax,” Ms Sturgeon said.

"So rather than just indulge in the rhetoric, will Anas Sarwar actually argue for the means of this Parliament to do it?”

However, the First Minister’s official spokesperson said there was no such letter drafted and that it simply was an “invitation” to the Scottish Labour leader to do so, something it is understood he will do not do.

In answer to questions about plans to tackle the cost of living, the spokesperson added he was not aware of any new plans to tackle the crisis from the Scottish Government.

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