Scotland’s finance minister has called on her UK counterpart to cut fuel duty in his budget next week, saying: “He can do it, he should do it.”
Kate Forbes said chancellor Rishi Sunak needed to “use the powers that are reserved to the UK Government to make a real difference” to Scotland, and demanded VAT be cut on fuel as part of a range of measures needed to prevent more families from being “plunged into poverty”.
Her call came as the price of fuel has skyrocketed in recent weeks, driven by fears of shortages in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking in Aberdeen as she announced £2 million in additional Scottish Government funding for the BioHub, a life sciences innovation centre, Ms Forbes said the chancellor “absolutely needs to take steps to ensure that the cost-of-living crisis and the rising energy prices are not plunging more households into poverty”.
Prices ‘too high’ in energy capital
She said: “I am speaking to you from a part of the world which has exceptional sources of energy and yet households here in the north-east and across Scotland are paying prices that are too high.”
She said actions the chancellor could take “might include a cut in VAT on fuel,” adding: “He can do it, he should do it.”
Sunak is facing increasing pressure to address rampant inflation and what is widely seen as a spiralling cost-of-living crisis across the UK as he plans to deliver his Spring Statement on March 23.
She pointed to action being taken by governments in France and Bulgaria – Emmanuel Macron’s government has limited gas price increases in France and has promised further help in April.
Meanwhile, parliamentarians in Bulgaria the European Union’s poorest state, voted in December to shield households from surging energy costs by freezing electricity and heating prices at current levels.
“We have seen action being taken by the French government and by the Bulgarian government, but ultimately energy policy is reserved,” she said.
Put money in our pockets
She further called for direct methods of distributing cash to ensure households can survive the highest rate of inflation in 30 years.
She said: “There are other things about putting money in people’s pockets through the social security system to prevent more families from being plunged into poverty.
“The UK government – the chancellor – absolutely needs to take steps to ensure that the cost-of-living crisis and the rising energy prices are not plunging more households into poverty.”