I have frequent discussions with the Scottish Government Finance Secretary and spoke to her ahead of the Budget last week.
Despite furlough, high streets face devastation—first shops and now pubs, an even harder space to fill. Was the Budget not an opportunity to support what are community assets in urban as well as rural areas and where alcohol consumption is supervised and not unchecked? With supermarkets having made huge profits during lockdown, much of that through alcohol sales, is it not time to support the Social Market Foundation’s call to increase alcohol duty on off-trade to sustain the on-trade in our communities?
Many businesses across Scotland argued for the alcohol freeze, not least the Scottish whisky industry. They also argued for the fuel freeze, which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor delivered. I am also surprised, when the hon. Gentleman talks of community, that he does not even recognise the extra capacity funding that his community received in the Budget. With all these things that impact the community, clearly, the additional £1.2 billion of funding received by the Scottish Government through Barnett consequentials at the Budget will again enable the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government to deliver better services in his community.
The poverty Chancellor has refused to make permanent the £20 universal credit increase and apply it to legacy benefits, with 75% of those affected being disabled. If he refuses to change course, 60,000 Scots, including 20,000 children, will be left in poverty and forced to decide between heating and eating. If the Minister was in their position, what would he choose: heating or eating?
First, as was set out in analysis published with the Budget, the measures that the Government have taken have supported the poorest working households the most. Secondly, the hon. Lady also failed to mention the additional capacity funding for her community that was announced at the Budget. Thirdly, the Scottish Government requested specific powers in respect of benefits and tax, and, of course, they have the option to use those powers that they said that they wanted.
As the Minister will be aware, the £20 uplift to universal credit has been a lifeline during the pandemic. Many families in my constituency are devastated that the uplift is set to end in September. With the Scottish Government committed to tackling child poverty, including through the game-changer Scottish child payment, the UK Government-imposed cliff edge could pose a significant setback. Does the Minister agree that plunging children and families into poverty, whether it is now or in September, is a callous act, and will he commit to a permanent uplift to universal credit?
We have managed to get a hat trick, because the hon. Lady also received capacity funding for her own area at the Budget but chose not to mention that funding, which will help the families she referred to. It is also slightly odd for her to talk about plunging into something when the Chancellor has announced an extension. Coupled with that, and the UK-wide measures that were set out at the Budget—including measures such as freezing fuel duty, which will help many families in her own constituency—there was an additional £1.2 billion of funding for the Scottish Government and the powers to which I referred in my previous answer. Therefore, many families have been helped, including 480,000 existing claimants in Scotland as well as new claimants, and the families helped through the £500 one- off payment that was announced at the Budget. There was a strong package of support for Scotland, none of which she chose to mention in her question.