The speech made by John McNally, the SNP MP for Falkirk, in the House of Commons on 17 May 2022.
The Queen’s Speech totally missed the cost of living crisis facing my constituents in Falkirk. As our communities emerge from two years dominated by the pandemic and all the personal loss, pain and anxiety that came with it, they now face a brutal financial crisis. Price rises are hitting families from every side. Energy bills are soaring, the price of basic foodstuffs is up, fuel is more expensive and inflation has reached a 30-year high and is going north.
Millions of people who have already cut back are having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children. They cannot cut back any more. The WASPI women, pensioners and many personal friends who I grew up with are living in fear of opening their bills and putting fuel in their cars. They have had to stop giving to local charities. What a state of affairs to be going through at their age.
Age Scotland states that the 3.1% rise in the state pension falls far short of what is needed by our pensioners. As the OECD highlighted, the UK has one of the lowest public pensions in the developed world. The UK also has the highest percentage among neighbouring countries of retirees over 65 at risk of poverty, which is pitiful. To add insult to injury, the UK state pension provides retirees with an income of about 20% of the average national wage, compared with almost 40% across the OECD. That is a disgrace and an insult, treating people and pensioners with disdain.
An independent Scotland will have full powers to protect and improve both state and occupational pensions. I believe the cost of living crisis has been created by the Conservatives and Brexit has only made matters worse. The SNP repeatedly warned that Brexit would be damaging to business and trade, and that it would put food prices up, yet the Tory Government remain dangerously out of touch. They could have reversed their cuts to universal credit, but they did not. They could cut VAT on fuel bills. They could reduce VAT on the high street. They could tax companies—not only energy companies—on excess profits. They could increase benefits, but they have not.
As for the Tory MPs who demonstrated an utter lack of humanity with their recent views that struggling families should buy cheaper food and manage money better, and that people who use food banks cannot cook properly, let me tell them this: there are Tory Members here and in the Lords who can hardly peel a potato and have never brought a dinner plate to their table never mind make a meal, such is their sense of entitlement. The message from the Tory Government is very clear: “You live in your world and I’ll live comfortably in mine.” It is poverty versus privilege.