Cost of living: Scottish Government support

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In a few recent press articles the Scottish Government have said they are providing:

almost £3 billion in this financial year to help families and households face the increased cost of living. This includes support for energy bills, childcare, health and travel, as well as social security payments not available anywhere else in the UK

Scottish Government, eg Herald, 27 July 2022

This blog looks at the detail behind this figure and provides a timeline for the policies included.

Helpfully the Scottish Government published a press release detailing which payments they included in the £3 billion.

All of the policies listed do help reduce costs for families and households in some way. But a list of measures announced specifically in response to the current increase in inflation would be quite a bit shorter. 

The graphic shows the various policies in order of when they started or were announced showing how many of them pre-date the current ‘cost of living crisis’, which we have taken as beginning in October 2021 (more details below).

Timeline and bubble chart showing different policies that make up the £3 billion Scottish Government spending "to help families and households face the increased cost of living." Details available in the hyperlink to Government news release.

Of course it’s useful to set out how government policy reduces people’s costs but by that measure, you might include the entire social security system, the NHS and a lot more. So that’s not this list.

Another useful list might be where there is help provided in Scotland but not elsewhere in the UK – such as the Scottish Child Payment – but that’s not this list.  It includes measures, such as the Council Tax Rebate that is also available in England and Wales and some social security payments that are replacements for existing benefits. 

Many items on the list are long standing commitments that go back very many years.  The single most expensive policy – at around £1 billion – is for increasing funded early learning and childcare.  This has been government policy since 2014.  It was introduced last August because it had been delayed for a year due to COVID-19.

An alternative way of looking at measures “to help families and households face the increased cost of living” would be to use October 2021 as the starting point for the ‘cost of living crisis.’ This is when energy price cap went up and CPI inflation was 4.2%.  If you were to look at policies from that date onwards you might get a list like:

This comes to around about £490m.

Of course, this is also not a perfect list, and there are many different ways in which this could be expressed.  Whether a policy counts when it is announced, extended, implemented or continued for an extra year – can all be debated. For example, Low Income Winter Heating Assistance is due to start in February 2023, but it is a long standing commitment to replace the Cold Weather Payment. However, hopefully this is a useful guide for MSPs, committees and anyone else looking to know where and when the listed policies come from.  This would hopefully be helpful to start to answer questions around support provided by different governments, for example.

As the cost of living continues to increase – with inflation due to reach 10% and ‘typical’ energy bills likely to reach over £3,000 per year from October there is pressure on all administrations in the UK to do more.  Future blogs will track any such additional policy measures as they are announced.

Camilla Kidner, Senior Researcher, Social Security