UK Government snubbed 'four nations' approach to cost-of-living crisis, says SNP

The UK Government snubbed efforts to forge a cross-border approach to tackling the cost-of-living crisis, a senior SNP minister has said.

Energy secretary Michael Matheson accused Tory ministers of repeatedly failing to take action of the "scale and urgency" required.

It came as Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey issued an “apocalyptic” warning about rising food prices.

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Mr Bailey delivered a series of bombshell warnings about the impact of rising inflation and admitted he felt “helpless” in the face of global pressures during an appearance before MPs on Monday.

There are mounting concerns over the impact of the cost-of-living crisis

The SNP backs measures including a one-off windfall tax on companies that have seen soaring profits during the pandemic and energy crisis.

Mr Matheson said the Scottish Government had suggested creating a "four nations" ministerial group to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, similar to measures taken during the pandemic.

However, he claimed the UK Government did not take up the offer.

Giving evidence to Holyrood's net zero, energy and transport committee, Mr Matheson said: "Myself and my colleague [social justice secretary] Shona Robison wrote to the UK Government in January, and I think in that letter we proposed a four-nations approach to tackling the increasing cost-of-living crisis.

"And then I, along with [finance secretary] Kate Forbes, wrote again in March again looking for a four-nations approach in these matters.

"To date, the UK Government hasn't taken up that offer."

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said this was "worrying" and referred to warnings from charities over a "catastrophic loss of life" this winter.

Mr Matheson said the Scottish Government recognised the risk, adding: "That's why we suggested there should be a four-nations approach to tackling the issue, and that there should be a four-nations joint ministerial group, largely in a similar way that we worked in a four -nations basis on issues around the pandemic.

"But that offer hasn't been taken up by the UK Government.

"Will we work with them? Of course we will. We'll work with them when we can and we'll highlight the actions that we think should be taken. But you can only work with parties if they're prepared to work with you as well.

"But we haven't had a positive response to working on a four-nations basis yet."

Earlier, Mr Matheson said the Scottish Government was set to invest almost £770 million this year in helping to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

He said it had repeatedly called for "urgent and targeted support" from the UK Government, adding: "Sadly, in the March Budget, in the energy security strategy, and last week in the Queen's Speech, the UK Government repeatedly failed to deliver anything to match the scale and the urgency of what is required."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and his Treasury ministers have suggested new measures to help ease cost-of-living pressures are being developed, but will not be introduced imminently.

A UK Government source said: "The UK Government is committed to working with the Scottish Government and local government to tackle the challenges ahead.

"Support worth £22 billion is being provided to families in 2022/23, including boosting the wages of the lowest paid and helping people with energy costs.

"In addition, the Queen’s Speech outlined measures to level up, turbo-charge economic growth and create tens of thousands of high-paid, skilled jobs.”

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