As Brexit-induced crisis unfolds, Tories moralise about poverty while plunging 800,000 people into it – Ian Murray MP

At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the Chancellor opened with a speech on morality and the route out of poverty.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 4:55 am
Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

This would have been rich at the best of times, but when the government has just plunged 800,000 people into poverty with a cut to Universal Credit, it’s utterly senseless.

Closer to home, this means that over 5,000 people in my constituency will be facing life below the poverty line and £4,648,800 will be taken out of our local economy.

So, when the Tory government is withdrawing vital support from thousands of people across Scotland, why is the Scottish government missing in action?

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On October 1, the energy price cap rose by £139 – the largest increase in history. The UK-wide Winter Fuel Payment, which is currently worth between £100 and £300 to pensioners, has been frozen since 2011.

But the Scottish Parliament has the power to take action to raise Winter Fuel Payments and alleviate fuel poverty.

Holyrood can make a difference here. We’re fortunate enough in Scotland to have the powers to ensure payments reflect the pressures on fuel-poor households – but in true SNP fashion, neither action nor responsibility are being taken.

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Scottish Labour has been calling on Nicola Sturgeon to provide a £70 supplement to low-income pensioners, yet she seems happy to stand by and let this cost-of-living crisis unfold.

The reality is that we’re dealing with governments in Westminster and Holyrood that are grossly out of touch with the concerns and needs of real people.

There is chaos on our forecourts, supermarket shelves are empty, and families are facing record high living costs. People in Scotland and across the UK deserve better than this incompetence and total lack of leadership.

While Nicola Sturgeon passes the buck to Boris Johnson and he passes the buck onto us, what’s clear is that this crisis was made in Downing Street and deepened in Holyrood.

We are still yet to feel the worst of Brexit, but the events of the last few weeks have given us a taste of just what the Tories have landed us in.

Supply chains are in crisis, stock in shops is now at its lowest level since records began and business leaders warn that Christmas is under threat due to a lack of HGV drivers.

Whatever this is, it’s not building back better.

The Tories’ reckless attitude towards governance is inflicting untold damage on our communities, whether it’s the callous cut to Universal Credit, the inability to foresee the hangovers from their disastrous Brexit plan, or just the same old, sheer incompetence from delusional ministers.

This week is Child Poverty Week, and the Tories have just taken £1,000 a year from the mouths of 2,152 children in my constituency of Edinburgh South.

They are happy for child poverty to soar on their watch. This is no surprise, but it is a disgrace.

In Scotland, we can transform lives, by boosting the Winter Fuel Payment, quadrupling the Scottish Child Payment, and bringing in a minimum-income guarantee to get us set on a real path to end poverty forever.

We have the powers – all that is missing is the political will.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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