AN MSP who “grew up in poverty” and visited food banks says the UK Government has shown tackling the cost-of-living crisis is “not a priority” by failing to introduce an energy price cap.

Natalie Don, SNP MSP for Renfrewshire North and West, was brought up by her disabled mum in a council house after her dad died when she was just two.

They claimed benefits and the 33-year-old learned quickly what it was like to count every penny and sometimes run out of cash for heating or food.

So when she watched Chancellor Rishi Sunak present his Spring Statement, she said it “broke her heart” to see the lack of support on offer for people who are now in the shoes her and her mum were once in.

One of the biggest concerns for Scots at the moment is a major hike in energy prices with the cap having increased by £693 from £1,277 to £1,971 per year for UK customers on default tariffs paying by direct debit.

The increase is even worse for prepayment customers, who have seen an increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017 per year.

But if you look across to Europe, the government in France have capped energy price rises at just four per cent, while president Emmanuel Macron has also cut tax on electricity and pledged to subsidise petrol by 15c a litre.

Don has insisted the Tory government missed an opportunity to bring in a cap and believes families will suffer because of it.

The mum-of-two said: “The rise in energy prices is, for me, the biggest concern in this cost-of-living crisis.

“Some European countries like France have an energy cap. We’ve done nothing of the like in this country and had the ability to, and that is what is really scaring people; how they are going to manage this extra, at times, above £1,000 a year.

“The amount of people in in-work poverty now is growing, so I would say not bringing in that cap shows it’s not a priority for them. They [the UK Government] could’ve done something to really help people and they wasted that opportunity.

“I grew up in poverty. I was very aware from a young age that you could get to a point in a week where you genuinely had no money left, so it breaks my heart to see the UK Government not doing enough to help people in these situations,” Don continued.

On top of the rise in energy costs, Scots are now bearing the brunt of a National Insurance hike, a cut to Universal Credit and a rise in food and fuel prices.

And while the Tories did increase benefits by 3.1%, this is way-off the level of inflation which hit 6.2% in February.

Don said one of the issues within the Tory ranks is an inability, in her opinion, to relate to those who are grappling with how to put food on the table or heat their home.

She added: “Quite a high percentage of MPs attended private school. They have no idea what it is like to struggle. When the cut to Universal Credit came in, it was clear they did not know how much £20-a-week can mean to someone.

“That is meals for the week, that is £5 in the electricity meter, it’s a couple of days of bus fares. If you’ve not been in that situation where you have to count every penny, you just have no idea,” she said.

“The cost of living crisis has definitely spiralled out of control in the past few months, but people were already struggling prior to that.

“I don’t talk about my experiences when I was younger because I want people to feel sorry for me. I just want people to understand that somebody that’s now in that position where they’re making legislation has experienced these things that a lot of people are going through.

“I think it’s important people know they have someone fighting for them.”

In contrast to the UK Government, the Scottish Government has increased eight social security benefits by 6% – including the Young Carers’ Grant and three Best Start Grants.

The Scottish Child Payment has also doubled to £20-a-week and will rise again to £25 later this year, when it will also be extended to under-16s.

Don – who became an MSP last May – said she believes Holyrood ministers are doing what they can to mitigate against the damage being inflicted by Westminster, but will only be able to truly help people in poverty if Scotland becomes independent.

Although some benefits were increased by 6%, some had to stay at the same level as the UK Government’s because Holyrood would require funding to change them.

On top of that, there are areas which are often linked to poverty where Scotland does not have the power to make significant changes, such as drug laws.

If ties were cut with the UK, Don believes the Scottish Government could introduce policies which would have a more positive impact on those struggling to make ends meet, such as the introduction of a Universal Basic Income.

“I think we could make a massive difference with just having all the powers at our disposal that would allow us to continue creating that fairer, more dignified system for people,” said Don.

“We are doing what we can, but we are doing it with one hand tied behind our back.

“The Scottish Child Payment increase is going to go a long way but families are still losing so much money from the energy and food hikes.

“If we were independent, we could try new policies, many of which we have seen work in other countries, which not only improve people’s standard of living but also increase happiness.

“I am a big believer in Universal Basic Income, it could go a long way to reduce income inequality, remove barriers for people, it could remove the stress and stigma around applying for benefits.

“It would benefit non-working parents and caregivers and could empower those who undertake a variety of unpaid roles within the household,” she added.

“But poverty isn’t just about money in people’s pockets, there’s wider issues going on because you’ve got families with mental health issues or drug and alcohol addiction and these all fuel poverty.

She continued: “I don’t think it’s always about looking at how much a family has in terms of cash, it’s about making sure they are able to function in society and I think independence would allow us to take a broad look over all areas of policy and tackle poverty not just through improving social security.”