Brown calls for collaboration between Holyrood and Westminster to avert cost of living 'catastrophe'
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged the UK and Scottish governments to work together to avert the ongoing cost of living crisis, which he has warned will turn into a “catastrophe” when a series of price rises take effect next month.
Polling carried out for Our Scottish Future — the think tank set up by Brown to campaign “for a better Scotland in a renewed Britain” — suggests that a majority of Scots believe the next year will be worse for their finances than Covid has been, with 48 per cent fearing their financial situation will worsen in the next 12 months while 37 per cent said the pandemic had made them less financially secure.
Our Scottish Future is predicting that energy price rises that are due to come into force at the start of April will lead to around half a million more Scots being tipped into fuel poverty and Brown has mobilised a collective of Labour mayors and local authority leaders from across the UK — as well as Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford — to lobby Chancellor Rishi Sunak to take action.
They have urged Sunak to address the issue in his Spring Statement, which will be delivered next week. In a letter sent today, the Labour collective has called on the UK Government to halt the rise in National Insurance contributions that will take effect from next month, restore the £20 a week pandemic-era uplift to Universal Credit that was removed last October, and “provide significantly greater help for energy costs, targeted at the poorest households”. They are also asking for benefits to be increased by the rate of inflation — which surged to a 30-year high of 5.5 per cent in January — rather than the planned 3.1 per cent.
“Six million low-income families have already lost £20 a week because of the cut in Universal Credit in October. Further cuts in the value of their incomes, as heating bills surge and good bills soar, will deepen the cost of living crisis they and many others face,” they wrote in a letter to the chancellor.
“These cuts are unfair, and for many will be unbearable – pushing them over the edge into extreme poverty, and rendering them unable to adequately heat their homes or perhaps even provide the nutrition their children need.
“Nothing less than these four measures, introduced together on March 23, can adequately respond to rising fuel poverty and prevent poverty as a whole rising faster than at any time in recent history.
“We have the means to put them in place – for example by implementing a windfall tax on energy companies, among other measures.
“And we have to find a way, because at stake is the unacceptable and avoidable suffering for millions of our fellow citizens – and especially children – across our communities.”
In addition to writing to the chancellor, Brown said the governments at Holyrood and Westminster must collaborate in order to protect the people of Scotland from the cost of living crisis rather than antagonising each other.
Brown said that “co-operation between Scotland and the UK, not confrontation or conflict between the two, is what’s needed”, adding that the SNP government should be focused on that rather than pursuing independence.
He added that the Our Scottish Future poll, which was conducted by Stack Data Strategy in February, indicates that is what the people of Scotland want, with 47 per cent of respondents agreeing that a “serious plan to change Britain would be more attractive than independence” while 22 per cent disagreed.
“Neither the UK nor the Scottish governments are doing enough, and what’s more they are not bothering to co-operate when together they should be making a sustained impact on poverty across our land,” he said
“People prefer a plan for Scotland to deal with this crisis in which we mobilise all the resources of Britain.”