Local elections 2022: Nicola Sturgeon denies being out of touch on cost of living despite £200k household income

Nicola Sturgeon has denied being out of touch on the cost-of-living crisis despite having a household income of more than £215,000 as she came under attack on the eve of the local council elections.

Her comments come after accusations from Scottish Labour claiming the SNP were preferring to make the squeeze on incomes a constitutional debate rather than effectively dealing with the problem.

A poll for The Scotsman, undertaken by Savanta ComRes, found 63 per cent of voters believe the economy to be one of the most important issue facing Scotland, with just 22 per cent arguing independence is in the same category.

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Speaking to journalists at a campaign stop in Edinburgh close to the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister claimed she had made changes to her household energy consumption and denied she was out of touch.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly criticised the UK Government and its ministers for being out of touch and argued Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson were in another “stratosphere” when compared to her own income.

With the First Minister salary of £135,605 and the salary of her husband Peter Murrell hitting £79,750 as chief executive of the SNP, the First Minister’s total income sits at £215,355.

Asked whether she is as out of touch as other politicians on the struggles facing people suffering from the cost-of-living crisis, Ms Sturgeon said she would “not pretend for a second" her experience was the same.

Nicola Sturgeon meets with residents in Loanhead, Midlothian, while on the local election campaign trail

She said: “We’re doing all sorts. We’re doing a lot of things to try to lower our energy use.

"But I’m not going to sit here and pretend that my experience is the same as other people, but I know lots of people in my own wider network that are really struggling right now.

"I live in Glasgow, in a street where I don’t know. They don’t share their personal details with me, I’m pretty certain people will be really feeling the squeeze.

"I’m not going to pretend that my personal experience given the job I do, the income I have, is the same as others.

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"But given my background, my family background and everything, I do know what it is like to struggle.”

Exclusive polling for The Scotsman showed an increase in the number of people stating they were now struggling to pay their bills, with 41 per cent stating it was now an issue.

Almost all Scots have noticed price rises, with groceries (92 per cent noticing increases), utility bills (91 per cent) and fuel (90 per cent) the most common highlighted as having risen.

In total, 81 per cent of Scots state they are worried about their cost of living, with almost a third (32 per cent) stating they are “very worried”.

Just 18 per cent said they were not worried about the squeeze on incomes.

At First Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Anas Sarwar raised examples of councils run by his party increasing payments to low-income households.

He said: “In West Lothian, discounted rail travel for the over-60s was delivered by Labour, but, across Scotland, the SNP hiked rail fares and hit hard-pressed families.

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"In North Lanarkshire, Labour has topped up the welfare fund, supporting hundreds of families. The SNP Government has refused to back Labour’s plans to do the same across the country.

“While Labour leads the way on tackling the cost-of-living crisis, the SNP prefers to make it a constitutional debate. After 15 years in government, maybe Nicola Sturgeon should stop pretending that she is in opposition and act to stand up for the people of Scotland."

However, in answers to journalists, the First Minister said she acknowledged she was in a different position to the majority of Scots, but denied she would ever be a “multi-millionaire” or set for life.

She said she did understand the pressures facing people, however, saying she was speaking to “lots of people” who were already buying the “cheapest things” and “already cutting back”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “My criticism of the UK is actually not on the personal circumstances, although Boris Johnson and particularly Rishi Sunak are in a different stratosphere to me. My criticism is on the tin-eared comments they are making, which shows they don’t understand or don’t care.

"Crucially my criticism is they hold lots of powers and access to lots of resources that could be putting money in people’s pockets right now and they are choosing not to do it.”

Asked whether her Government would be announcing new policies around the cost of living to help Scots, Ms Sturgeon said there was an “exercise across government” looking at how they could “redirect resources”.

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She said ministers were looking at the issue on a “daily, weekly basis”.

Finance minister Kate Forbes has so far mirrored the UK Government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis, issuing a £150 council tax rebate to those in bands A to D.

Ministers have also increased the Scottish Child Payment, but have repeatedly said the key powers lie with the UK Government to truly tackle the crisis.

The First Minister said: "I hope we can do more. I think we’re already doing a significant amount, but no government and governments collectively are not yet doing enough.”

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