Cost of living crisis: Liz Truss's plan to borrow billions to inflate energy companies' profits is lunacy – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP
The funeral of the late Queen on Monday marked the culmination of a period of national mourning that, in its own way, brought out the very best in our family of nations.
Only in Britain could our national pastime of queuing for things become a poignant and internationally scrutinised example of the special place Her Majesty occupied in the hearts of her people. I was honoured to have participated in many of the ceremonies that commemorated her life in recent days.
Indeed, there are few moments you know you will remember forever. Monday was one for me. Sitting in the nave of Westminster Abbey, beside William Hague, Nick Clegg and Arlene Foster and directly above the tomb of Neville Chamberlain, there was a profound sense of history which we all remarked upon. As the service ended and we left our seats, our discussion turned to the resumption of politics this week.
We live in seismic and turbulent political times and while the pause necessitated by the period of mourning may have taken the intensity out of the divisions in our country, it hasn’t brought us any closer to healing them. Nor has it brought either of our governments closer to the solutions we need for the substantial problems we face.
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The Prime Minister's announcement on energy bills made just hours before the news of the Queen’s passing raises significant and troubling questions.
Why on Earth should Liz Truss let the energy companies off the hook and allow them to keep their eye-watering profits and not insist they pay their way through a meaningful windfall tax?
Instead, the UK Government will borrow the £150 billion required to help absorb the impact of energy price inflation. All this at a time when the pound is at its weakest, when our international trading position has never been more precarious, and when countries around the world are opting to tax those energy profits. This is lunacy.
Action on energy bills is not the end of it either. This Friday the Chancellor should be using his emergency "fiscal event" to set out how he will tackle the significant hardship and pain already being felt in our homes, our businesses and our communities caused by the rising cost of living.
Instead it looks as if his first proposal will be to end the cap on banker’s bonuses. That’ll go down like a cup of cold sick at our nation’s food banks.
Meanwhile in Scotland, this week brings with it the worst A&E waiting times ever. A clear signal that our health service is buckling. On every shift, on every ward, our country’s hospitals lack the nursing staff they need to operate safely and with every month that passes we are losing experience and personnel.
We’ve also got a yawning educational attainment gap, 200,000 long Covid sufferers going untreated, and 18,000 Ukrainians on their way here with a visa but no clarity on where we will home them. Yet despite all this, the SNP/Green government’s first and only priority remains the break-up of the UK.
These days of mourning have offered us all a period of reflection. I hope for all our sakes that, as normal business resumes, both our governments have reflected enough to change course.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western