I WARMLY welcome the Scottish Government’s six-month pilot to remove peak fares across ScotRail’s services that started on Monday.

This aims to encourage more people out of their cars and onto public transport as we know this is better for the environment, and I’m pleased that the SNP in government is looking at ways of making rail travel more affordable – particularly during a cost of living crisis.

I would encourage people to make use of this pilot because a return ticket from Gourock to Glasgow and Wemyss Bay to Glasgow is now under £9, which is several pounds cheaper than prior to this pilot.

By using the train more, especially at peak times, this will help inform the Scottish Government’s decisions on public transport and rail travel in the future.

Next, I want to comment on the latest report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) released this week which has labelled the UK Government's 'work first' approach to welfare a failure.

The report goes on to commend the Scottish Government’s flagship Scottish Child Payment, worth £25 per week, per eligible child, saying it will likely see child poverty decrease.

What is worrying though is the JRF has said this 'isn't enough' to ensure the Scottish Government’s targets for 2023-31 are achieved.

This report once again demonstrates how cruel and negligent Westminster policies are undermining the SNP Scottish Government’s efforts to lift people out of poverty.

Chris Birt, JRF associate director for Scotland, has called out the UK Government for seemingly behaving as though the cost of living crisis is over, and has called on them to 'come through for the Scottish people by embracing the Essentials Guarantee which would improve the lives of people across these islands'.

Over the summer I visited Inverclyde Foodbank to discuss the Essentials Guarantee campaign, which is calling on the UK Government to introduce an Essentials Guarantee within Universal Credit to ensure that the basic rate at least covers life’s essentials, such as food and bills.

This is because Universal Credit is not providing people with enough money to even cover the basic items and bills they need to pay for, which is leading to increased demand for food banks and other similar services.

I support this call because evidence shows that putting more money in people’s pockets can help alleviate poverty – as the Scottish Child Payment is showing – but this approach will also provide people with more dignity than the current UK welfare system offers.

In sharp contrast, the Scottish Government has taken a person-centred approach to welfare, with dignity and compassion at the heart.

This is because we know the UK welfare system is broken and we can take a different approach – but as the JRF report shows, there is only so much the Scottish Government can do to tackle poverty when the UK Government seem all but determined to make people’s lives harder.

With independence, we could do so much better.