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Badenoch and Strathspey Lib Dems criticise SNP over failure to back cost of living plans

By Gavin Musgrove

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Declan Gallacher, Liberal Democrats candidate for Badenoch and Strathspey.
Declan Gallacher, Liberal Democrats candidate for Badenoch and Strathspey.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Badenoch and Strathspey has today criticised nationalist politicians and accused them of letting people in the area down over tackling the soaring costs of living.

Declan Gallacher said the SNP and Green MSPs voted against a series of Scottish Liberal Democrat measures to tackle the crisis.

These included plans to cut rail fares, increase disability benefits, protect councils from having to raise council tax, and introduce an emergency nationwide home insulation programme to reduce fuel bills and tackle the climate emergency.

Mr Gallacher said: “I know from speaking with voters that they are worried about fuel and energy costs, rising rail fares and Scottish Government cuts to council budgets.

“This was an opportunity for the Scottish Government and our local MSPs to back measures that would make a real difference to people in Badenoch and Strathspey. Instead, they have let people down.

“If I am elected on 5th May, I will be a champion for our community and do what I can to ensure the Highland Council are helping people through the cost-of-living crisis.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Scotland is facing the biggest fall in living standards since the fifties.

“The Scottish Government has an arsenal of tools to tackle this crisis but they are still sitting on the side-lines.

“Hiking rail fares and council tax will hammer households at the worst possible moment. In the case of the Green party this even means abandoning an explicit manifesto promise to cut fares by a third.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have set out a clear plan of action at every level of government to cut bills for you and your family.”

But Dave Fallows, SNP candidate for Badenoch and Strathspey, responded: "Sadly, our local Lib Dem candidate appears to live in the same cloud-cuckoo land as his leader in Holyrood. No responsible government could possibly support a completely uncosted and totally unaffordable series of measures which include much which remains entirely under the control of Westminster.

"Those limited elements of social security that the Scottish Government does control have already been increased.

"There is not the slightest doubt that if Scotland had real control over fiscal policy and implementation, only the Tories would oppose policies which would protect the Scottish Nation from the excesses of King Boris and his merry men who continue to rob the poor to give to the rich.

"Remember it was the Tory-Lib Dem coalition that brought in austerity and that Cole-Hamilton has said that he would go into administration with the Tories to keep the SNP out. Is he advocating a Tory Lib coalition? The parties of austerity? And the track record gets worse than that - when the Scottish Government froze council tax for ten years, compensating local authorities to do so, it was the Lib Dem leader in Highland, Alasdair Christie who demanded that they be allowed to increase the tax.

"Of course people in the strath are worried by rising costs – not just in energy or rail fares, but every aspect of daily living, including fuel and massive hikes in food costs.

"But Declan falsely implies that electing a Lib Dem to the council can somehow end all of that. The simple truth is that the only way to rid ourselves of this grasping, uncaring Westminster rule is independence."

Mr Fallows said it will be an 'absolute priority' of SNP members of Highland Council to do all that can be done to mitigate the pain of this cost of living crisis.

He said: "Our manifesto is packed full of solid commitments and innovative ideas for the future, including exploring options to create a Highland energy generating company to provide lower costs to all; lobbying to reduce the grossly unfair grid connection charges applied to Highland power generation, developing tidal power and using offshore wind generation to produce low cost hydrogen power."

Pippa Hadley (Scottish Greens) said: "Mr Gallacher’s criticism of the Scottish Greens’ record in Scotland’s parliament and government typifies his party’s political cynicism.

"I could, of course, point out that the Scottish Greens in government already help households across the country.

"Will the Liberal Democrats deny that free bus travel for under 22s, the doubling the Scottish Child Payment or a £1.8 billion Heat Network Fund to tackle domestic emissions and fuel poverty are major political wins that help tackle the rising cost of fossil fuels?

"I could also point to the Scottish Greens securing a citizen’s assembly on local government funding and council tax to finally review the outdated and unfair system of council tax. This was promised by the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and Labour when in government. The Scottish Greens delivered.

"But it strikes me that Mr. Gallacher’s remarks fail to address any of the concerns brought to him by voters. This isn’t surprising since the Highland Liberal Democrats haven't bothered to publish a manifesto at all.

"As a Highland Green candidate, I have a publicly available manifesto that includes providing more affordable, warm homes and better public transport and active travel links to combat both the rising cost of fossil fuels and the climate crisis.

"I encourage everyone to read it online at votegreen.scot. You know where I stand on the issues that matter to you.

"I am deeply worried that most candidates in these local elections haven’t published a document outlining their political vision for the communities they seek to represent.

"Voters are entitled to know what people stand for. So far, I only know that Mr. Gallacher stands for talking about national politics while campaigning in local elections. I sincerely hope he is standing for more than that."

More detail on Scottish Liberal Democrats’ plans can be found here.

The SNP's Highland group's manifesto for the region can be found here.

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