Politics

Sturgeon to freeze rent and rail fares ‘major risk’

IndyRef2: Sturgeon says ‘let the people of Scotland decide’

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The First Minister announced the measures on Tuesday as she set out plans to introduce emergency laws to tackle the “humanitarian emergency” caused by record high energy bills. Ofgem, the energy regulator, confirmed an 80 percent rise in the price cap from October 1 to £3,549 a year.

Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said the emergency laws will see a rent freeze for public and private properties and a ban on winter evictions.

Her deputy, John Swinney, is due to make a separate financial statement on Wednesday.

The First Minister said: “We will take immediate action to protect tenants in the private and social renting sectors.”

Rail fares on ScotRail, which was brought into public ownership earlier this year, will also be frozen until at least March 2023.

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

Ms Sturgeon also announced an increase in the Scottish child payment from £20 to £25 weekly for every eligible child from November.

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

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

Responding to the announcement, John Blackwood, the chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, accused the Government of “attacking landlords for political reasons”, suggesting that the proposals “will only further reduce the supply of housing, putting more people at risk”.

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Tom Mundy, of lettings platform Goodlord, told The Telegraph: “Introducing rent control could mark the end of the private rental sector as we know it by stripping away the central incentive which encourages people to invest in buy-to-let properties.

“There’s a major risk that this freeze will push landlords out of the private rented sector market at a time when pressure on rental stocks is particularly acute.”

Scottish tenants’ union Living Rent welcomed the freeze, but added: “We also know that rents are already too high and have increased by over 60 percent in Scottish cities in the last 10 years.

“This rent freeze will need to stay in place until the Scottish government brings in proper rent controls that push rents down.”

Ms Sturgeon also pledged to legislate for another referendum on Scottish independence on October 19 2023, if the Supreme Court rules Holyrood can legally hold a second vote.

Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, said a second referendum was “unacceptable at a time when people are struggling”, adding “the Prime Minister has changed, but sadly it’s the same First Minister directing blame elsewhere and seeking grievance with the UK Government”.

The Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said: “No one will be surprised by the inclusion of a referendum bill today, but they will be frustrated by the waste of money and resources.”

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