United Kingdom

Scotland to freeze rent and rail fares to help with cost of living crisis

Scotland is set to bring in emergency laws to freeze rents and help tenants weather the worsening cost of living crisis.

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, announced the measure as she set out plans to deal with the “humanitarian emergency” caused by soaring energy bills.

“We will take immediate action to protect tenants in the private and social renting sectors,” Ms Sturgeon said.

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Rail fares on ScotRail – which was brought into public ownership this year – will also be frozen until at least March 2023 and the Scottish child payment will increase to £25 a week for each child from November, the first minister said.

The universal provision of free school meals will also be extended to all pupils in primary six and seven.

The intervention comes as the rest of the UK waits for Liz Truss to announce her cost of living support package as she takes over as prime minister.

Sky News understands that energy bills are set to be fixed at £2,500, which would be paid for by borrowing rather than through a levy on tax.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly called for a freeze on the energy price cap and wants an emergency summit of the four nations to be held on the “cost crisis”.

Speaking at Holyrood as she unveiled her package of measures, Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish government does not have the power to stop your energy bills soaring, but we can and will take action to make sure that your rent does not rise.”

Ms Sturgeon said the purpose of the emergency law will be two-fold.

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Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, has set out plans to deal with the cost of living crisis

“Firstly, it will aim to give people security about the roof over their head this winter through a moratorium on evictions,” she said.

“Secondly, the legislation will include measures to deliver a rent freeze.”

Living Rent, Scotland’s tenants union, described it as a “huge win that would not have been possible without years of organising by members”.

The move was also welcomed by the Enough is Enough campaign, which called for the rent freeze to be extended across the UK.

But the decision was criticised by the Scottish Association of Landlords, which said the government was “attacking landlords for political reasons”.

Cost of living ‘highlights need for independence’

The plans announced on Tuesday were part of the first minister’s annual programme for government speech, which happens at the start of each new year at Holyrood.

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Ms Sturgeon also said her government would bring in a bill to hold a second independence referendum in October next year if ministers get the go-ahead on this from the UK Supreme Court.

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Ms Sturgeon said the rising cost of living “highlights the pressing need for independence” as it would “give us the wherewithal to build a better, wealthier, fairer future”.

“We are being reminded every day that where – and in whose hands – power lies really matters,” she said.

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