Anas Sarwar – Poverty plan includes scrapping school dinner money debts.
By Democrat reporter
The SNP must use every lever they have to tackle the “national scandal” of poverty, Anas Sarwar has said ahead of the First Minister’s summit.
Sarwar accused the SNP of delivering “16 years of empty rhetoric” on poverty and warned that we need more than “talking shops and photo ops”.
The party has previously set out a series of actions the SNP government could take right now to ease the cost of living crisis and help those in poverty, including:
- Making public transport more affordable
- Wiping school meal debt and improving debt support.
- Support for housing costs with a revamped Mortgages Support Scheme and a proper Tenant Hardship Grant Fund.
- Help with bills by freezing water charges and using Scottish Water’s £500 million cash surplus to give every household a £100 rebate.
Labour also highlighted the need for a new government across the UK, branding the Tories’ record in government “shameful”.
Labour has pledged to extend the windfall tax on oil and gas giants to help people through the cost of living crisis and its Green Prosperity Plan would help drive down bills for households in the long run.
The party’s new deal for workers will also help tackle the root causes of poverty by driving up wages, ending insecure work and creating quality jobs.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said “Every government has a duty to tackle poverty, but the SNP has delivered 16 years of empty rhetoric.
“We need more than SNP talking shops and photo ops to tackle the national scandal of poverty.
“Scotland is crying out for change from an incompetent SNP government and a morally bankrupt Tory one – but only Labour can deliver it.
“The next Labour government will put an end to the Tories’ shameful time in government and deliver transformative change to lift people across the UK out of poverty – but the SNP cannot keep passing the buck while people are suffering.
“We need to use every lever we have here in Scotland to tackle poverty and deliver the change people need.”
Speaking ahead of the summit Humza Yousaf repeated the claim that the Scottish Government allocated almost £3 billion to tackling poverty and the cost of living crisis – despite this figure being called into question by both SPICe and by the UKSA.
Scottish Labour is calling for the following action:
- School meal debt forgiveness
- Aberlour Children’s Charity has revealed that over £1 million is owed by thousands of families across Scotland who unable to pay for their children’s school meals.3 In some situations this debt can be pursued aggressively as public sector debt and can follow children from primary to secondary school. To allow for this debt to be written off the Scottish Government should provide the necessary funding to local authorities.
- Debt support
- Labour has called for measures to support those with problem debt, at least while inflation and prices remain high. Changes could include (but are not limited to) placing legal duties on councils to provide clear information on advice services and council tax reduction schemes; amendments to bank and earnings arrestments to take account of inflation and individuals’ circumstances; and the removal of bankruptcy fees where a person has no surplus income.
- Support with housing costs
- Scottish Labour would relaunch and revamp the Government’s Mortgage to Shared Equity scheme by amending the eligible house price thresholds so that it is not only the lowest value homes that qualify and reducing the size of the equity that people need to have in their property to ensure that buyers who have recently bought their home with smaller deposits and are rolling off their fixed rate can still access support. Scottish Labour also want an increase to the resources dedicated to the administration of the fund so that they can deliver a maximum of a two month turnaround for applications. Scottish Labour have also repeatedly called for the closing date for the Tenant Hardship Grant Fund to be removed so that the unspent funds are delivered to those in need. Options to renew the fund should also be explored so that tenants can continue to access support while economic pressures remain acute.
- Affordable public transport
- Scottish Labour has called on the Scottish Government to tackle the cost of commuting by temporarily halving rail fares and providing resource to local authorities so that the cost of bus journeys can be capped and
- The Scottish Government has failed to confirm whether they plan to increase rail fares in the year ahead – Scottish Labour has said they should rule out any inflation level increases.
- Water rebate
- Scottish Water’s accounts revealed that at the end of 2021/22 the organisation had built up a cash surplus of £515.9 million. Scottish Labour has called for charges to be frozen and this surplus to be used to give every household a £100 water bills rebate.
Labour’s new deal for working people: