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Public Expenditure and the Cost of Living

Volume 722: debated on Wednesday 16 November 2022

2. What assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of the Government’s spending decisions on (a) public expenditure and (b) the cost of living in Scotland. (902189)

7. What assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of the Government’s spending decisions on (a) public expenditure and (b) the cost of living in Scotland. (902194)

Without pre-empting the details of the Chancellor’s statement tomorrow, I can say that the Government’s position is that, while tough decisions will be necessary, we remain committed to targeting support at the most vulnerable people in our communities across this land. As well as benefiting from a record block grant settlement to the Scottish Government, the people of Scotland benefit from higher levels of public spending, as is demonstrated through the Union dividend of about £2,000 a year per person.

The number of food bank parcels handed out by the Trussell Trust has doubled since 2015 as a direct consequence of austerity. Can the Minister assure the House that there will be no further return to austerity so that we can tackle the root causes of food poverty and the cost of living?

I hope that, as the Member of Parliament representing Govan, the hon. Member will join me in welcoming the £4.2 billion defence investment in Glasgow’s shipyards for the building of those five Type 26 frigates, which will support hundreds of jobs in his constituency.

The UK Government will always act to help the most vulnerable people in our society. The Government are helping to protect households from significant energy bill rises through the energy price guarantee, holding down inflation, and that is on top of the targeted support for the most vulnerable, including £1,200 in direct payments this year. As for other measures, I encourage the hon. Member to wait for the Chancellor’s statement tomorrow.

Last week I hosted a cost of living event in Hamilton, and every day I am inundated by people contacting me about the potential loss of the triple lock on pensions. My constituents were just getting by before the cost of living crisis, but they are now avoiding supermarkets, struggling to pay heating bills and fearing starvation and hypothermia this coming winter. Will the Minister act now to prevent pensioner poverty and call on the Chancellor today to guarantee the triple lock on pensions and to ensure that they rise in line with inflation?

As I said earlier, the focus of this Government is on supporting the most vulnerable people in our society, and we will always take this responsibility seriously. The Government will act, as they always do, to take the action necessary to support the constituents that the hon. Lady has mentioned. She mentioned the potential effect of Government spending decisions. I will gladly tell her about the very real effect that the SNP Government’s spending decisions are having in Scotland: they have wasted hundreds of millions of pounds on ferries that do not float; a fortune has been wasted on malicious prosecutions at Rangers football club; their mistakes have cost hundreds of millions of pounds to fix Edinburgh Sick Kids and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow; and, worst of all, they have spent millions of pounds pushing for another independence referendum that does not match with the priorities of the people of Scotland.