Families hit hardest by energy price rises should be given a £400 payment by the Scottish Government, Scottish Labour has said.
Last week, energy regulator Ofgem announced a rise in the price cap which could see average annual bills rise by £693.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “every single penny” of consequentials sent north as a result of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £2bn relief package would be spent on mitigating the price increase, with a minister claiming plans will be laid out by the Scottish Government “in short order”.
On Wednesday, Scottish Labour laid out its action plan to counter the cost of living crisis, with its key demand to Scottish ministers being a £400 payment for the hardest hit.
Under the plans, all of those in receipt of a council tax reduction, pension credit, child’s winter heating assistance or the carer’s allowance supplement, would receive the payment at a total cost of £238m.
“This would ensure that up to 595,000 lower income households across Scotland would receive £400 towards their energy bills,” the plans said.
“Taking this approach would target the majority of the funds available towards the people and families most likely to face hardship and fuel poverty, providing them with a grant, not a loan, which would help mitigate almost 60% of the annual energy price rise expected from April.”
The payment, Labour said, should be put in place before the end of this financial year so recipients “can have confidence to keep their homes warm through the remaining cold months”.
The plan also calls for a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies, as well as a push for the Scottish Government to review rises in rail fares and water charges.
The Scottish Welfare Fund, the plan suggests, should also be boosted using the remaining consequentials.
“With families across the country anxious about how they are going to pay the bills and keep food on the table, it is past time for both the UK and the Scottish Governments to act,” said Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar.
“At a time when pay cheques already need to stretch further, the Tories’ hike to national insurance contributions and the SNP’s approval for rises to water rates and rail fares, will heap yet more pressure on people’s wallets.”
He added: “People are struggling right now, and the SNP must act now to get money into people’s pockets.
“That is why in addition to Labour’s expansive plan at Westminster, we are demanding Nicola Sturgeon act now.
“Use money we know is coming to the Scottish Parliament for a Scottish Fuel Payment of £400 to households struggling to make ends meet, top up the welfare fund to help those struggling and, where her ministers have the powers, end price rises this year.
“People can’t afford any more excuses from the SNP.”
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