By a Newsnet reporter
It is time for the No campaign to start explaining why welfare and pensions should be left in the hands of Westminster, the SNP has said – with a majority of Scots believing that the Scottish Government would be best at deciding welfare and pensions for Scotland.
A new analysis published on Wednesday by the Scottish Government shows that pensions and welfare costs in an independent Scotland would not only be more affordable than in the rest of the UK, but that Scotland would be in a better position than the majority of EU15 countries.
Spending on social protection – which includes welfare, pensions and social services – is more affordable as a share of Scotland’s economy than it is across the UK, and also proportionately lower than in the majority of EU15 countries during 2011.
The analysis also shows that spending on social protection is estimated to have been lower as a share of Scotland’s economy than in the majority of EU15 countries during 2011
Overall public spending in Scotland has accounted for a lower share of our economy than it has across the UK in each of the last 5 years. For Scotland to have the same level of spending as a share of the economy as the UK would have required a further £4.1bn to have been allocated to Scotland in 2011-12.
Commenting on the figures, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Households are facing damaging welfare cuts and looking at reductions in the state pension in the years ahead as the Westminster system delivers cuts to support for the elderly and the vulnerable.
“Instead of accepting that situation where cuts are imposed against the wishes of the vast majority of Scotland’s MPs a Yes vote in next year’s referendum will allow us to take welfare and pensions into Scotland’s hands and use the full strength of our economy to provide the support people across Scotland deserve.
“As this analysis shows spending on pensions and welfare is currently more affordable in Scotland than in the rest of the UK and in many EU countries, taking up a lower share of our overall economy.
“Compared to the original 15 member states of the EU, 13 of them use more of their national wealth to pay for social protection than Scotland does. With full responsibility for our economy these figures clearly show that welfare and pensions are more affordable in Scotland.
“Ahead of the referendum we will set out the opportunities that taking responsibility for welfare and pensions will bring for Scotland and we have already established an Expert Working Group on welfare to provide external scrutiny on the cost, delivery and immediate priorities for change of a Scottish welfare system.
“With access to all of Scotland’s resources and the full responsibility for economic growth that comes with independence, Scotland will be able to invest in a welfare system that supports people in their old age, helps families with childcare and increases equality, rather than one which reduces taxes for the wealthy whilst cutting support for the vulnerable.”
Other members of SNP have now said it is high time for the anti-independence parties to explain why they believe that Scotland’s more affordable social protection should be left in the hands of Westminster.
Commenting, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson – convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee – said:
“There is absolutely no doubt that welfare and pensions would be more affordable in an independent Scotland, but again and again the anti-independence parties somehow try to paint Scotland’s stronger financial position as a liability.
“This analysis shows that so many of those other supposedly ‘too wee, too poor’ countries such as Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Austria all spend proportionately more on social protection – yet we are still told that Scotland cannot afford our welfare system.
“A majority of Scots believe that the Scottish Government would be best at deciding welfare and pensions policy for Scotland – which is not surprising, given the way successive Westminster governments have steadily dismantled the welfare state. Most recently, over 90% of Scots MPs voted against the Bedroom Tax, but it is being imposed on Scotland nonetheless.
“It’s time for anti-independence parties to stop insulting the intelligence of Scots and raise the tone of the debate.”