8 November 2016

Fumbling in Face of Devaluation

At the moment it seems there is much we can disagree on. People have all kinds of opinions in our society about every subject.

But today I may have found something we can all agree on.

We can agree that everyone needs to eat. People want to be able to go out to the cinema, or dinner or perhaps even a holiday. We can agree that people tend to appreciate having a little extra cash. This seems obvious.

Strangely, the UK Government doesn’t understand that – let me explain.

Earlier last month we saw Tesco and Unilever disagree on product prices. Tesco initially refused to accept the price rise from Unilever. Unilever in turn refused to supply products. Unilever argued that the drop in the pound had driven up the cost of imports – which prompted their request for a 10% increase in their price. Their dispute may be resolved, but this is just the beginning.

Typhoo Tea and British Airways have both already warned of a price hike. As more firms warn of raising costs, the quality of life for those in the UK will continue to descend.

Winter is almost upon us. And as the nights get colder, more and more we will need to heat our homes. Many throughout Scotland already have difficulty paying for fuel costs.

But just last week energy experts warned of the effects of the UK’s deteriorating pound and pressure on wholesale prices. They suggested that suppliers may introduce a 5% rise on electricity bills. On a standard tariff, that will cost 18 million families across the UK £465 million a year.

And how did the Tory Government respond? In the Tesco-Unilever dispute, the PM’s spokesman said, “It is a decision for companies how they market and sell their products…It is a commercial decision.” In other words – not her problem.

The PM has yet to speak to energy suppliers over the challenges posed by devaluation in the pound. Again leaving ordinary people to suffer the consequences of Tory inaction. The actions the Tories have taken are laughable.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has placed Jam, Tea and Biscuits as a one of her key strategic target. I agree we have some of the best food and drink in the world – but tea and biscuits isn’t a comprehensive trade strategy. It will not counter the costs of trade tariffs or a crashing pound.

The result of Tory inaction is clear – costs will rise at a rate that income will not. People will have less money for food, seeing family and friends and even going on holiday.

The Conservatives have offered no solutions to any of this – watching as quality of life for ordinary people continues to fall. Their inaction and hard right tendencies will see families and companies across Scotland poorer. I hope we can safely agree that no one voted for that. It’s time the Conservatives did something about it.

Stewart Stevenson
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