ACROSS Scotland, millions of people are really worried about their household finances. People are struggling to pay for shopping and are terrified to open bills. They need governments at all levels to step up and offer significant support.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve visited charities and community organisations doing in-credible and essential work to help those most in need.

Last week, I visited Govan HELP – a charity that supports parents, families and children in the wider Govan area – to mark the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week. 

The Scottish Child Payment was described by anti-poverty charities as a “game changer” when the SNP government first introduced it. With its doubling, it’s now worth £80 every four weeks – with 104,000 children already benefiting from this in-crease.

It’s the most significant anti-poverty measure introduced in any of the UK nations and a measure that will have a real and positive impact on the families in Glasgow and across Scotland who need it most – giving money directly to families who are struggling to meet the basic costs of living.

But our ambition doesn’t stop there. We’ve already confirmed that the Scottish Child Payment will rise again to £25 per child, per week by the end of this year – putting even more cash into the hands of families who need it most. It will also be extended from children in low-income families up to age 6 – as now – to those up to age 16.

My Government is striving to do all we can with the limited powers and resources we have to ensure people, communities and businesses are given as much support as possible to deal with the rapidly rising cost of living. 

But with energy bills soaring, a hike in National Insurance and the cost of everyday essentials rising steeply in the shops, it’s well beyond time that the UK Tory Government followed the Scottish Government’s lead and finally used their much more extensive powers and resources to full effect to do what’s needed to tackle rising poverty.

It is a fact that this cost of living crisis hasn’t just happened overnight. It has been years in the making by a Tory Government that has spent more than a decade cutting support for the poorest while giving contracts and tax breaks to the richest. Revelations in recent days that the Chancellor’s own family benefits from non-domicile status, reducing tax that would otherwise be paid in the UK, simply fuels the anger that people feel.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are demonstrating just how out of touch they are with their wholly inadequate response to a crisis that is causing a tidal wave of misery. The UK Tory Government simply don’t care who is struggling at the bottom as long as they are doing alright at the top.

At every turn, the Tories have failed to acknowledge the scale of the hardship people are facing. Faced with growing queues outside the increasing number of foodbanks across the UK, they simply close their eyes.

There is no better example than the Tories’ cruel cut to Universal Credit – taking £20 a week from the very poorest in our communities. The contrast with the SNP government doubling the Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week could not be starker.

The fact is that in these tough times, when people look to politicians to help them, the UK Government is falling woefully short.

The recent Spring Statement from the UK Chancellor did precisely nothing to ease the burden for struggling families in Glasgow. Instead, he hit households with a toxic combination of Tory cuts, tax hikes and inflation.

The SNP government is already taking steps to protect Scots from the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, and the immoral two-child cap and rape clause, but the Scottish Parliament shouldn’t be there just to mitigate the worst of Tory austerity.

That’s why the SNP’s ambition is to do so much more for the people of our city and country.

We have put the crippling cost of living crisis at the heart of our campaign for the upcoming local elections.

And I give my commitment that every SNP representative elected across Glasgow – and the whole of Scotland – will do all we can, at all levels of government, to ease the burden for those struggling most.

This is also my first column since Scotland marked a significant moment for our rail services, as ScotRail was taken back into public ownership on April 1.

This change provides us with a massive opportunity to modernise the railway and to deliver passenger services that are efficient, sustainable, affordable and fit for the future. It is also an opportunity to ensure that our railways are contributing fully to the achievement of Scotland’s ambitious targets to tackle climate change. 

Bringing ScotRail into public ownership was one of the SNP’s manifesto commitments at last May’s election and, as we approach the local government elections, we will continue to work hard to deliver on our promises to make Scotland the fairer, greener, wealthier nation we all know it can be.