I often look across at the Tory benches and wonder whether they have any capacity for understanding the pressures that most families face. For a while, under Theresa May, it was fashionable for the Tories to talk about the ‘just about managing’ or ‘JAM’ families.
It was a passing fad, and now the so-called ‘JAM’ families are toast. They face a cost of living crisis turbocharged by a botched, ideological Brexit that’s driving up prices and reducing choice – and to make matters worse, the Tories are adding in some nasty, poverty inducing policies that defy logic but are pursued with dickensian vigour.
The Office for National Statistics reports those earning below the UK average wage will pay up to an extra £255 per year, with the forthcoming Tory national insurance hike. This is yet another household cost many families simply cannot bear.
The lowest earners already saw their universal credit cut by £20 a week by the Tories, all while they were trying to grapple with inflation running at over five per cent and climbing. For example, foods such as rice have shot up over three hundred per cent in cost.
To exacerbate the issue further, national rises in electricity and gas costs will send family bills skyward, with average households facing another £800 a year in energy costs. If that sounds bad, spare a thought for those living in rural areas or not connected to gas mains and reliant on electricity or fuel as heating oil. Their costs will be three or four times that amount.
Add the colder climates, lower rural wages, the eye-watering petrol and diesel costs, and households aren’t just living with fuel poverty; they can’t find the money to put food on their table or pay for household bills.
If you are already struggling to make your household income stretch – how do you find money to fill another gap?
If there is no leeway, no savings to dip into and indeed no magic money tree, how do you make ends meet?
The simple answer is, you can’t.
And the most infuriating and shameful part of all this is that most of it is avoidable.
It is possible for the UK Government to make policy decisions based on common decency and realising potential.
Just take the forthcoming national insurance hike as an example. The Federation of Small Business says this policy decision will put a brake on training, apprenticeships, and community growth. Like us in the SNP, they believe the proposed changes must be scrapped.
If the Chancellor and his colleagues had any capacity for understanding the pressures that most families face, he would stop making those with the least carry the burden of his Government’s poor decisions.
He would reinstate the £20 a week cut to Universal credit payment and, as a start, turn his measly two hundred pounds fuel ‘payday loan’ into a grant.
🏴 While we're doubling the Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty, the UK government takes money away from families.
✂️ Whenever Scotland takes one step forward, UK Tory governments drag us back.
👉 Scotland needs full powers over social security. pic.twitter.com/RLPPYtG5PP
— The SNP (@theSNP) March 2, 2022
If the Chancellor actually believed his words of understanding at the difficulties families face, he would choose to scrap the benefit cap and adopt the Scottish Child payment, introduced by the Scottish Government, across the nations of the UK.
He is making choices – these policy decisions are not inevitable.
As a result of his Government, hundreds of thousands of families no longer choose between heating or eating; they can afford neither. The situation is desperate, and as history has shown, under the current democratic settlement, we will continue to be served up Tory Governments we did not vote for and have to live with the consequences of their ideological choices.
There is a crisis upon us. We need to oppose these dickensian policies with vigour and show people that we can and will make very different choices with independence.