Nicola Sturgeon claims Scottish independence 'fundamental' to tackle povertyShe insists her drive to break up the UK is not a 'distraction' from other issuesSNP leader is under pressure to reallocate her £20m referendum war chestCalls for money to go to public services in wake of the Supreme Court's ruling
Nicola Sturgeon today claimed Scottish independence was ‘fundamental’ to tackling poverty as families face the brutal cost-of-living crisis.
The SNP leader insisted her drive to break up the United Kingdom was not a ‘distraction’ from issues such as helping the poorest.
She instead declared there needed to be a reshaping of the economy to tackle the ‘root causes’ of poverty.
Ms Sturgeon bemoaned a lax of tax and borrowing powers held by her Scottish Government and claimed her ministers were ‘frequently having to mitigate’ decisions taken at Westminster.
But the Scottish First Minister has come under fire for pushing ahead with her independence campaign in the wake of this week’s Supreme Court ruling she must get Westminster’s approval before holding an independence vote.
Ms Sturgeon is facing a chorus of calls to reallocate the £20million she previously earmarked for a second independence referendum to help struggling families, businesses and the NHS in Scotland.
Speaking at a Poverty Alliance conference in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon rejected frequent claims that her focus on independence was a ‘distraction’ from other issues
The SNP leader has come under fire for pushing ahead with her independence campaign in the wake of this week’s Supreme Court ruling
Speaking at a Poverty Alliance conference in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon rejected frequent claims that her focus on independence was a ‘distraction’ from other issues.
‘It is actually, in my view, fundamental to the question of how we can better and more effectively tackle poverty,’ she told an audience.
‘Not just the impacts of poverty but the root causes of it as well.’
The First Minister highlighted how the Scottish Government’s budget had been ‘eroded quite substantially’ by rocketing inflation this year – which she calculated to be a £1.7bllion hit to Edinburgh’s spending ability – as she bemoaned a lack of power to boost her administration’s funds.
Ms Sturgeon slammed last week’s Autumn Statement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt as ‘woefully inadequate’ for ‘far too many people in communities across the country’.
The First Minister hinted that, if she had more powers, she would increase income tax in Scotland or borrow more to tackle the impact of inflation and avoid spending cuts.
‘The budget that we have this year… is right now worth £1.7billion less than it was when we set that budget at the start of this year,’ she said.
‘That’s the impact of inflation and we don’t have any levers to try to mitigate that in year.
‘Although we have limited tax-varying powers, which we will consider in terms of setting our budget for next year, we are legally not allowed to use them in the middle of a financial year.
‘So we don’t have the option to increase income tax, for example, to increase more revenue.
‘We can’t borrow money for day-to-day spending and all of our reserves are fully allocated.’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross demanded Ms Sturgeon reallocate her £20million ‘slush fund’ for a second referendum to other ‘cash-strapped’ budgets
Ms Sturgeon insisted the Scottish Government was ‘constrained’ in its ability to tackle poverty by the ‘limitations on the powers of our parliament right now’.
She also bemoaned how she was ‘so frequently having to mitigate the impact of UK Government policies that people in Scotland don’t support’.
The SNP leader cited an £87million annual spend on ensuring the ‘bedroom tax’ – a reduction in housing benefits for bedrooms left spare by those living in council houses – doesn’t ‘impact anybody in Scotland’.
‘Far better to have a situation where we don’t have these policies introduced in the first place, rather than have to spend the money to mitigate the consequences of them,’ Ms Sturgeon said.
‘Why should we settle for simply mitigating these things? Wouldn’t it be better if we could influence and take these decisions ourselves in the first place?’
But while the First Minister continued her independence campaign today, she came under increased pressure to reallocate her £20million ‘slush fund’ for a second referendum to other ‘cash-strapped’ budgets.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘It was utterly shameful that Nicola Sturgeon and her Government ever set aside this amount of money to pursue their number one obsession of breaking up the United Kingdom.’
Mr Ross added, in the wake of the ‘unequivocal ruling’ of the Supreme Court this week, that ‘there will be no referendum next year’.
‘So there is absolutely no justification for them failing to reallocate every penny of their referendum fund,’ he continued.
‘This is millions of pounds’ worth of funding that could support families and businesses through the global cost-of-living crisis or help our NHS through a winter storm.
‘It would be inexcusable if nationalist ministers refused to divert money towards frontline services or those who need it most.
‘We constantly hear ministers moaning about a lack of funds for Scotland’s public services, but they have always protected their referendum slush fund.’
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the £20million should be spent on supporting those with long Covid after Ms Sturgeon’s ’embarrassing’ defeat in the Supreme Court.