Brexit and the UK Government’s inaction have exacerbated the cost-of-living crisis, a Scottish Government minister has said.
Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson said the effects of Britain’s exit from the EU have been highlighted as rising bills leave families struggling in food and fuel poverty.
He also hit out at “foot dragging” by the Westminster Government, which he claimed has added to the issues of inflation and soaring food prices.
His comments follow a report by the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance which said Brexit-related trade barriers have driven a 6% increase in UK food prices, adding to the squeeze on consumer spending power.
The study covered two years to the end of 2021 and attempted to strip out the effect of the pandemic.
Commenting exactly one year after the UK Government’s Brexit agreement came into full legal force, the MSP said: “Brexit has made the cost-of-living crisis worse for the UK and Scotland in particular since we did not vote for this damaging policy.
“It has brought into sharp focus how Scotland has a ‘cost of living with Westminster’ crisis.
“Inaction and foot dragging by the Westminster Government compared to other countries is already making this crisis worse for ordinary people, but their Brexit plays a big part in exacerbating the problems people face.
“Brexit has hit businesses with increased costs, paperwork and border delays and our food and drink sector is being unfairly disadvantaged, just as we warned it would be; and it is but one of a number of industries suffering worsening labour shortages as a direct consequence of Brexit and the pandemic.
“Scotland voted against Brexit and wanted no part of this disarray, but still we are living with the consequences of the Westminster Government’s hard Brexit deal.
“By its actions during the Brexit process and in its aftermath, the Westminster Government has shown it is not interested in a partnership with the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Government.”
Independence, he added, is the only “realistic route” for Scotland to regain EU membership and escape “from repeats of a ‘cost of living with Westminster’ crisis”.
A UK Government spokesperson said businesses are being supported to “trade effectively” with Europe, while seizing new opportunities as trade deals are struck around the world
The spokesperson said: “We are also acutely aware of the pressures people are facing with rising costs of living and continue to do everything we can to help those who need it most.
“This month alone, we’ve provided immediate help with energy bills through the £150 council tax rebate, an uplift to incomes of the lowest paid through the National Living Wage, and the biggest cut, in cash terms, on fuel duty – on top of a range of other support worth £22 billion this year.
““People in Scotland rightly want to see both of their governments working together with a relentless focus on the issues that matter to them.
“That means, amongst other things, working to drive down NHS backlogs, protecting our long-term energy security and supporting our economic recovery so that everyone has access to the opportunities, skills, and jobs for the future.”
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