What EU countries are doing to help with the cost of living

Food prices are rising, energy prices are soaring – they’re on track to hit over £3,600 a year from January – and the UK Tories are too distracted by an increasingly right-wing leadership contest to do anything about it.

While UK salaries fell at the fastest rate on record – falling by 4.5% when adjusted for inflation – the Tories have only made the situation worse by imposing a tax rise on working people and cutting Universal Credit.

The increases in the cost of energy disproportionately affect those on the lowest incomes, and further amplify inequality – which is already higher in the UK compared to neighbouring countries.

Scotland has a wealth of natural energy resources, but our population isn’t able to benefit of it because Westminster control is holding us back.

As European countries have been taking real action to tackle the cost of living crisis, the UK government continuously failed to act – failing families, businesses and communities.

Here’s how their response compares to some countries in the EU.

🇫🇷 France

While energy prices in the UK rose by 54%, the French government chose to cap them at 4%.

Instead of passing on the high wholesale energy prices onto consumers, the French energy company EDF has been forced to take a hit to protect household incomes.

On top of that, France introduced a 15 cent-per-litre reduction in fuel (compared to 5p in the UK), and low-income French households received a one-off payment of €100 to help with rising energy costs.

🇩🇪 Germany

The German government has given everyone a one-off €300 payment to help with the cost of living, and a further €100 for each child – as well as another €100 to anybody receiving state benefits.

Additionally, Germany has cut fuel tax by 30 cents (around 25p) on petrol, compared to the 5p announced by the UK government.

Recent research from the motoring group RAC has found that the UK has given some of the least generous support in Europe. Out of 13 European nations that have cut tax on petrol, only Luxembourg has done less.

And Germany also took a major step to make public transport cheaper for all – introducing a nation-wide €9 ticket, which gives unlimited travel on all regional trains, buses, trams and metro for a whole month.

🇪🇸 Spain

Spain has lowered VAT on energy bills from 21% to 10%, while taxes on electricity have been cut from 7% to 0.5%.

The Spanish government has also levied a windfall tax on energy companies, helping to ease the burden of high costs for consumers – way before the UK government was dragged kicking and screaming into doing the same.

And going even further than Germany, Spain has introduced free train travel on all regional and medium-distance trains from September until the end of the year.

🇮🇪 Ireland

Public transport fares have been reduced by 20% until the end of the year, to help with rising costs of commuting.

To help with fuel costs, Ireland has cut fuel duty to 20 cents per litre for petrol, and 15 cents per litre of diesel – going significantly further than the UK.

And on energy, the Irish government has cut VAT on gas and electricity by 9% to 13.5% – which the UK government refused to do, despite often-repeated promises from the Brexit campaign.

🇳🇱 The Netherlands

To help with rising inflation, the Dutch government is offering eligible households a one-off energy allowance of €800.

It has also lowered VAT on energy from 21% to 9% – and going further than the UK, delivered a fuel duty cut on petrol and diesel by 21%.

Meanwhile, the UK is the only major economy to put up taxes on working people during the cost of living crisis

In the middle of a cost of living crisis, the Tories have increased National Insurance, a regressive tax that disproportionately hits working people on middle and lower incomes – while going ahead with a £4bn tax cut for bankers.

Meanwhile, Germany introduced tax cuts worth 0.5% of GDP, Italy has cut taxes to a 0.2% equivalent, and no other G7 country had any personal tax increases.

Westminster control isn’t working for Scotland – let’s choose a better future

The Scottish Government’s paper confirms that independent countries, of a size similar to Scotland, have built fairer, more equal societies – while Scotland’s potential has been held back by damaging Westminster Tory governments that we’ve rejected since 1955.

The UK has the worst levels of inequality and the worst levels of poverty out of neighbouring countries – and inaction over the cost of living, combined with the cost of Brexit, only exacerbate that.

To unlock the opportunities to build a more prosperous, fairer and greener society – just like many European countries of similar size to Scotland – we need to become an independent country.

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