STUDENT leaders have called for the £150 council tax rebate designed to help with the cost of living to be extended to students.
The president of the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland said he was “utterly stunned” that students will not be able to access the money if they are exempt from council tax.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes set out the plan for a £150 payment or discount on council tax bills for most households on Thursday.
She admitted it is an “imperfect scheme” but said it will ensure families receive help sooner rather than later.
Anti-poverty charities said it does not include enough target support for those on low incomes.
READ MORE: Kate Forbes announces £150 council tax discount for 1.8m Scottish homes
NUS Scotland president Matt Crilly said: “With inflation-busting increases in our rents and more of us using foodbanks, I am utterly stunned that the Scottish Government has decided to exclude students from this new £150 payment.
“Students face the same energy bill hikes as everyone else, but our support doesn’t increase by the cost of living and many of us receive no support whatsoever during the summer. The Finance Secretary must extend the payment to students.
“We’re scunnered: after two years of disrupted education, MSPs passed a Budget yesterday with real-terms cuts to our learning, no increase in student support and no support to address the cost of living.
“Enough is enough. We’re taking the case for action on student poverty to the Scottish Parliament at our rally for education on February 22.
“Standing in solidarity with staff, we’ll be demanding year-round student support that meets the cost of living.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said councils will be able to offer additional £150 payments to around 38,000 households which are exempt from council tax.
The spokesman said: “Students are exempt from water charges as well as council tax.
“They are able to access discretionary funds provided by the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council to institutions to support their students with household bills and other costs if they are facing financial hardship.
“The £150 payment is only one element of the support package and further assistance is available elsewhere for those exempt from council tax.
“An additional £10 million is being allocated to continue the Fuel Insecurity Fund, which supports people struggling with their energy bills, while the Scottish Budget 2022/23, passed yesterday by the Scottish Parliament, will double the unique Scottish Child Payment from April and extend it to under-16s by the end of 2022, helping to lift an estimated 40,000 children out of poverty in 2023-2024.
“However, many of the wider measures required to address the cost of living crisis, particularly energy regulation, reside with the UK Government.
“The Finance Secretary is writing to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to highlight the urgent need to work collaboratively to tackle these pressing issues.”
Students are already able to access discretionary funds we’ve provided to help with household bills and other costs if they are facing financial hardship, but recognising the need for further help, Scot Gov will engage with NUS & set out more detail soon. /2
— Kate Forbes MSP (@_KateForbes) February 11, 2022
On Twitter on Friday evening, Ms Forbes said she would engage with the NUS and would “soon” set out details of further support.
“Students are already able to access discretionary funds we’ve provided to help with household bills and other costs if they are facing financial hardship, but recognising the need for further help, Scot Gov will engage with NUS & set out more detail soon,” she said.