Labour leader Anas Sarwar announces cost of living package including winter evictions ban, rent freeze and cancelling school meal debt

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for emergency legislation to be the Scottish Parliament’s first priority to help deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

The plan includes calls for a winter evictions ban, a rent freeze, cancelling school meal debt, halving rail fares and capping the cost of bus journeys.

It would also include additional cash for "bridging payments" for children in receipt of free school meals and support for businesses.

Mr Sarwar said the economic crisis facing Scots was a national emergency and, like the Covid-19 pandemic, required a radical response from both the UK and Scottish governments.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar visits the Fife Renewable Innovation Centre and Energy Park. Picture: Michael Gillen

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An emergency cost-of-living summit has been called by the First Minister with energy companies, organisations and charities.

Labour said the Scottish Government had “failed to produce concrete actions using the powers available”.

The Scottish Labour leader said: “The cost-of-living crisis is a national emergency on the scale of the pandemic – and dealing with it requires both of Scotland’s governments to move quickly and decisively.

“Instead we’ve seen silence from Boris Johnson and nothing of value from those squabbling to replace him.

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“So while Labour propose a plan that would save families £1,000 on their energy bills, Tories call for tax cuts for billionaires.

“But we’ve also seen little of substance from the SNP, ignoring the significant powers they have to act now.

“That is why Scottish Labour is calling for emergency legislation to be put before the Scottish Parliament now, as the starting point for a response to help people without delay.

“Our plan sets out areas where Holyrood can act urgently to help people now – and it could be passed as an Emergency Cost of Living Act when the Scottish Parliament returns.”

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The party is calling for a temporary rent freeze to protect tenants from rent increases, a renewed Tenant Grant Fund worth £10 million and a winter eviction ban to prevent homelessness.

Labour has urged the Scottish Government to half the price of rail fares and provide resources to local authorities so that the cost of bus journeys can be capped.

The plan suggests freezing rail fares for the next year.

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Emergency legislation should be introduced to improve debt solutions, according to the plan, as well as writing off school meal arrears.

The party has called for the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment bridging payments, topping up the Welfare Fund, providing a £100 water bills rebate and establishing a Business Hardship Fund.

Mr Sarwar said the Scottish Government had a reserve of £241 million in their budget which was available.

However, the Scottish Labour leader was criticised by business, trade, tourism and enterprise minister Ivan McKee, who said Mr Sarwar “does not understand the numbers very well” as the reserve was there to ensure the Scottish Government does not run out of money.

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Mr McKee said: “We are absolutely having a look at all measures that could make an impact to address the current situation.”

On delivering school meals for all primary children by August, a promise of the previous SNP manifesto, Mr McKee said this had not happened due to the lack of capacity in kitchen facilities despite funding made available to local authorities.

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