By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 06 September 2022 • 22:51
Scotrail - Image Tana888 Shutterstock.com
Announcing the plan on Tuesday, September 6, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the country did not have the power to introduce an energy bill freeze. But she said the government had the power to make other changes that would help workers and tenants get through the winter.
Calling the cost of living crisis a “humanitarian emergency” she said: “We will take immediate action to protect tenants in the private and social renting sectors.”
Although new Prime Minister Liz Truss is due to make announcements on the cost-of-living crisis, Sturgeon has moved quickly to provide what aid the Scottish Government can in terms of its remit.
Sturgeon has repeatedly called for a summit of the four nations to discuss the energy crisis, but that has so far fallen on deaf ears. Given statements from the incoming prime minister it is unlikely that such a summit will take place, at least not in the short term.
ScotRail was brought into public ownership this year, a move that now allows the Scottish government to take action on rail fares. These will according to Sturgeon be frozen until at least March 2023.
The child payment in Scotland will increase to £25 (€29) a week from November and the universal provision of free school meals will be extended to include all pupils in years six and seven.
Sturgeon speaking at Holyrood said: “The Scottish government does not have the power to stop your energy bills soaring, but we can and will take action to make sure that your rent does not rise.
“Firstly, the rent freeze will aim to give people security about the roof over their head this winter through a moratorium on evictions.
“Secondly, the legislation will include measures to deliver a rent freeze.”
Although the decision has been criticised by the Scottish Association of Landlords, the move has been widely welcomed by Living Rent, Scotland’s tenant’s union, who described it as a “huge win.”
The “Enough is Enough” campaign has also welcome the move and has called for the rent freeze to be extended across all of the UK.
Sturgeon also said that should ministers get the go-ahead from the UK’s Supreme Court, a referendum on independence would be held in October 2023. Speaking about the need for independence she said the rising cost of living “highlights the pressing need for independence” as it would “give us the wherewithal to build a better, wealthier, fairer future.”
Liz Truss the UK’s new Prime Minister has, however, poured cold water on a referendum telling Sturgeon to instead concentrate on the plight of the country.
With Scotland about to bring in emergency laws to freeze rent and rail fares, pressure will no doubt ratchet up on Truss to move quickly and decisively in dealing with soaring energy prices.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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