We are experiencing the worst cost-of-living crisis for generations. Spiralling food prices, inflated energy costs, and wages failing to keep pace. This is difficult for everyone, but it is particularly devastating for households already struggling.
Faced with this crisis, you might think the UK government would have used the Queen’s Speech to outline measures to ease this burden.
But you would be wrong. What we saw instead was a complete lack of willingness from the UK government to support families, and indeed any measures at all to ease the burden of poverty.
We needed bold action, but we got inaction from a government that lurches from one crisis to the next. It was a complete abdication of responsibility. The sad reality is the UK government has made a political choice to perpetuate poverty across these islands.
Because poverty is not a personal choice. No one chooses to struggle under the weight of the cost of living. It is a political choice. One politicians make every time they raise or lower taxes, fund or cut social security, empower or constrain the third sector. A choice this UK government is content in making because they see foodbanks as part of society, part of the welfare state, when they should not exist at all.
In the chamber, I argued that a different legislative programme featuring even some of the Scottish Government’s progressive policies would have resulted in a far bolder agenda for the year ahead. Policies like free prescriptions, free university tuition, free personal care for the over 65s, free bus travel for under 22s, the Scottish Child Payment, the baby box, the young carer’s grant.
But that hasn’t happened, will never happen whilst we’re tied to Westminster. Instead, from the UK government we get the usual bluff and bluster, platitudes and politicking, all the while families here struggle.
It is a tale of two governments. One who helps those in need, and one who blames those in need. Westminster’s uncaring and out of touch approach forces the Scottish Government to step in. But devolution was not designed to mitigate, it was supposed to empower, democratise, and bring government closer to the people of Scotland. It was not intended to be a shield to soften the blows of successive Tory governments in Westminster.
In East Dunbartonshire alone, the Scottish Government spends £11.8 million each year to mitigate the worst of what Westminster throws at us.
Just think what we could do with that money as an independent country.
I will continue making the case in the Commons, calling on the UK government to do the right thing and support families in East Dunbartonshire and across the UK.