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Nicola Sturgeon insists independence is ‘fundamental’ to tackling poverty amid cost-of-living crisis

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Nicola Sturgeon claimed today that Scottish independence was ‘fundamental’ to tackling poverty as families face the relentless cost of living crisis.

The SNP leader insisted her drive to break up the UK was not a ‘distraction’ from things like helping the poorest.

Instead, she stated that economic reform was needed to address the “root causes” of poverty.

Ms Sturgeon bemoaned the lax tax and lending powers of her Scottish government, claiming that her ministers had to ‘often soften’ the decisions made at Westminster.

But the Scottish prime minister has come under fire for continuing her independence campaign in the wake of this week’s Supreme Court ruling that she must get Westminster’s approval before she can hold an independence vote.

Ms Sturgeon is facing a chorus of calls to reallocate the £20 million she had previously earmarked for a second independence referendum to help families, businesses and the NHS in Scotland.

Speaking at a Poverty Alliance conference in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon dismissed frequent claims that her focus on independence was a 'distraction' from other issues

Speaking at a Poverty Alliance conference in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon dismissed frequent claims that her focus on independence was a ‘distraction’ from other issues

The SNP leader has come under fire for continuing with her independence campaign in the wake of this week's Supreme Court ruling

The SNP leader has come under fire for continuing with her independence campaign in the wake of this week's Supreme Court ruling

The SNP leader has come under fire for continuing with her independence campaign in the wake of this week’s Supreme Court ruling

At a Poverty Alliance conference in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon rejected frequent claims that her focus on independence was a ‘distraction’ from other issues.

“Actually, I think it’s fundamental to the question of how we can tackle poverty better and more effectively,” she told an audience.

‘Not only the consequences of poverty, but also its root causes.’

The First Minister highlighted how the Scottish Government’s budget had been “quite significantly” eroded by this year’s explosive inflation – which she reckons would be a £1.7bn drain on Edinburgh’s spending power – while complaining of a lack in power to increase her government’s funds.

Ms Sturgeon denounced last week’s autumn statement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt as “woefully inadequate” for “far too many people in communities across the country”.

The First Minister hinted that if she had more powers she would increase income tax in Scotland or borrow more to deal with the effects of inflation and avoid austerity.

“The budget we have this year… is currently worth £1.7bn less than when we set that budget at the beginning of this year,” she said.

“That’s the impact of inflation and we don’t have leverage to mitigate that in the year.”

“While we have limited fiscal powers, which we will consider when setting our budget for next year, by law we are not allowed to use them in the middle of a fiscal year.

‘So we don’t have the option, for example, to increase income tax to generate more income.

“We cannot borrow money for day-to-day expenses and all our reserves are fully allocated.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross demanded Ms Sturgeon reallocate her £20m slush fund for a second referendum to other cash-strapped budgets

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross demanded Ms Sturgeon reallocate her £20m slush fund for a second referendum to other cash-strapped budgets

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross demanded Ms Sturgeon reallocate her £20m slush fund for a second referendum to other cash-strapped budgets

Ms Sturgeon insisted the Scottish Government was ‘limited’ in its ability to tackle poverty by the ‘limitations of the powers of our Parliament at the moment’.

She also complained that she ‘so often had to soften the impact of UK Government policies that the people of Scotland do not support’.

The SNP leader cited an annual expenditure of £87m to ensure that the ‘bedroom tax’ – a reduction in housing allowance for bedrooms left behind by those living in social housing – does not ‘impact anyone in Scotland’.

“It’s much better to have a situation where we didn’t put this policy in place in the first place, rather than have to spend the money to mitigate its impact,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“Why should we settle for simply mitigating these matters? Wouldn’t it be better if we could influence and make those decisions ourselves in the first place?’

But as the Prime Minister continued her independence campaign today, she came under mounting pressure to reallocate her £20m slush fund for a second referendum to other cash-strapped budgets.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “It was utterly shameful that Nicola Sturgeon and her government ever set aside this sum to pursue their primary obsession, which was the disintegration of the United Kingdom.”

Mr Ross added this week in response to the Supreme Court’s ‘unambiguous ruling’ that ‘there will be no referendum next year’.

“So there is absolutely no justification for them not to reallocate every penny of their referendum fund,” he continued.

“This is multimillion-pound funding that could support families and businesses through the global cost-of-living crisis or help our NHS through a winter storm.

It would be inexcusable if nationalist ministers refused to channel money to frontline services or those who need it most.

“We hear ministers complain all the time about a lack of funds for Scotland’s public services, but they have always protected their referendum slush fund.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the £20 million should be spent supporting those with long Covid after Ms Sturgeon’s ‘shameful’ defeat in the High Court.