Protecting poor from disastrous Tory policies - Lorna Slater

It would be hard to overstate how utterly disastrous the first month of Liz Truss’s tenure as Prime Minister has been.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity
Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity

It has been an unprecedented calamity. We have already seen the pound in freefall, warnings from the International Monetary Fund, homeowners being hit by soaring mortgage rates and the largest Bank of England intervention since Northern Rock collapsed in 2008.

The Bank of England said it was acting to stave off a “material risk to UK financial stability.” This wasn’t due to an external event; it was because of deliberate policy choices from Downing Street.

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The immediate crisis was triggered by what must have been among the most inept and badly judged budgets in history.

It offered tax cuts for millionaires and bigger bonuses for bankers, while curbing trade union rights and punishing many of the most vulnerable people with benefit cuts.

The Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, was eventually forced to reverse course on his plan for cutting the 45p tax rate on the wealthiest people. But, at the same time as the U-turn was announced there were reports of a real terms cut to Universal Credit and other benefits.

One of the biggest expenses that people are being faced with is housing. Average private rents in Lothian have risen by over 40 per centover the last 10 years.

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This has created a very difficult and increasingly unsustainable situation for millions of tenants, who are already being hit by escalating prices for day-to-day essentials and skyrocketing bills.

There are few things as important to us as where we live, but last week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published new research that exposed the harsh realities facing many tenants.

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Many of those they spoke to said that they felt trapped by their current housing situation and that it is negatively affecting their physical and mental health. These problems will be particularly acute in Edinburgh, where the cost of renting can be so high.

This week the Scottish Government is taking action to tackle the cost crisis.

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Announced by the First Minister last month, from today my Green colleague Patrick Harvie will be leading on emergency legislation to deliver a rent freeze and eviction ban that will last until at least March. These are vital changes that will be welcomed by tenants across the country.

Over the course of this parliamentary term we will introduce the biggest expansion of tenants rights since devolution: from basic things like the right to keep pets and decorate to better protections against illegal evictions, action on warmer homes, and major reforms like a national system of rent controls.

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With the economic crisis deepening, these changes will make a big difference. With Greens in government we are not just talking about change, we are working constructively and delivering it.

These are turbulent times, and the decisions politicians make can have a huge impact on the economy and the environment around us. This has only been underlined by the last week.

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That is why we will continue to prioritise people and our communities. We will not be following in the footsteps of Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng and will do everything we can to protect Scotland from the chaos and cruelty that they are inflicting.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity