Richard Thomson, SNP MP for Gordon, has warned of a fresh “Winter of Discontent” as a combination of post-Brexit rising prices and goods shortages, together with cuts in benefits and increases in taxes mandated by the Conservative UK Government, combine to hit the spending power of families across the country.
Mr Thomson made his remarks in a Westminster debate on the finances of working people, where he highlighted the debilitating long-term consequences of poverty on children, family life, health, self-esteem and people’s individual life chances. He also highlighted the particular problems of rural poverty and the devastating impact that UK Government cuts to Universal Credit; the increase in National Insurance payments; the removal of the link between earnings and pensions; and the end of furlough, will have right across the North East.
In the discussion, Mr Thomson said: “[The North East] has certainly suffered from the oil and gas downturn over the past few years. It is still to benefit from the transition to renewable energy technologies that we all fervently hope to see, and it has certainly borne the brunt of the UK austerity agenda we have experienced in recent years.
“It is not easy for those who have never experienced scarcity or shortage in any significant way themselves to fully understand how expensive it can be to be short of money. People buy what they can afford, not what lasts best. They pay more for their energy, particularly if they are, as many colleagues have said, trapped on a prepayment meter, with everything that goes with that. Access to credit and financial services is much harder and is often more expensive when it is available.
“For me, tackling poverty means many things, but above all it means treating people as citizens, with dignity, and enabling them to participate fully in society on their own terms, shorn of the shame of being left without. What does it say of the UK Government that they have made a set of policy choices, particularly over the past fortnight, that seek to make it harder for families and individuals to provide that dignity for themselves and to participate as they might wish in wider society?”
Concluding his contribution, Mr Thomson said: “We have a UK Government who speak the language of levelling up, while simultaneously grinding down on those who work the hardest and those who have the least. I personally would much rather that we judge the Government’s efforts on the fairness that they exhibit in their approach to Government and the equality of opportunity that can be offered to all regardless of means or background, to deliver the improved outcomes that we all strive for.
“If we want to build back better and build back fairer, Scotland quite clearly needs to be well away from the baleful influence of Conservatives in this place and from the continued rule of Westminster Conservative Governments.”