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‘The rainy day has arrived’: Sarwar urges SNP government to spend £241m reserve

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ANAS Sarwar has accused the Scottish Government of sitting on hundreds of millions of pounds while the cost of living crisis bites. 

The Scottish Labour leader claimed there was £241 million sitting in reserve in the government’s coffers and urged ministers to use it to help tackle high bills and the impact of soaring inflation. 

Last week Nicola Sturgeon announced an emergency budget review to “assess any and all opportunities to redirect additional resources to those most in need, reduce the burdens on business and stimulate the Scottish economy.”

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Mr Sarwar said it needed to be a “genuine” review. 

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “We have a reserve of £241 million of the Scottish Government budget – that’s £41 million up from where it was before.

“We know there is a lack of transparency around where money goes, or where money is stored by the Scottish Government, so we’re calling for a genuine emergency budget review like Nicola Sturgeon has suggested, that gets the eyes open on where there’s more money available and what more support can go to people right now rather than hoarding money for later down the road.”

“The rainy day has arrived, we need to support people.”

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The Labour leader was speaking as he launched his party’s plan for dealing with the cost of living crisis. 

Measures included a ban on winter evictions, a rent freeze and half-price rail fares. 

The party also called for the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment bridging payments, writing off school meal arrears and topping up the welfare fund.

Mr Sarwar also called for more support for all off-grid households – offering help to up to 217,000 Scottish households.

He also called for a billion-pound fund to support businesses in energy-intensive industries.

Mr Sarwar said: “The cost of living crisis is a national emergency on the scale of the pandemic – and dealing with it requires both of Scotland’s governments to move quickly and decisively.

“Instead we’ve seen silence from Boris Johnson and nothing of value from those squabbling to replace him.

“So while Labour propose a plan that would save families £1000 on their energy bills, Tories call for tax cuts for billionaires.

“But we’ve also seen little of substance from the SNP, ignoring the significant powers they have to act now.”

He said the proposals could be passed in Holyrood as an “Emergency Cost of Living Act.”

“Now, I’m not suggesting that this is going to be like it was with Covid-19, where you saw an infection that we have never seen before right across our country, making us lose so many lives,” he said.

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“But, let’s be honest, if we don’t confront this crisis then lives could be lost as we push more and more people into poverty.”

Business minister Ivan McKee said the Scottish Government was looking at a number of measures to tackle the rising cost-of-living.

He told the BBC: “There are measures we are looking at, I’m not going to obviously commit just now to government policy.

“We have got to go through the proper process on that, but we are absolutely having a look at all measures that could make an impact to address the current situation.”

The minister told the broadcaster it was “very important also to recognise what we have done”, including the “£3 billion we have already put in”, but highlighted that some issues were reserved for the UK Government.

He added: “We absolutely recognise that the cost crisis is impacting individuals families and business right across the country, and the First Minister’s taken this step to call together energy companies and, very importantly alongside that, other organisations who understand and work very closely with individuals who are most impacted.”

The minister also said deputy first minister John Swinney would use the budget review to see “what possibility there is to free up additional cash to be able to support the most vulnerable on top of all the work we’ve put in place”.

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