Case for Scottish control of welfare is ‘unanswerable’, say SNP

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  By a Newsnet reporter  
 
The case for Welfare being devolved to Scotland is ‘unanswerable’ the SNP has said, after a new report laid bare the scale of cuts being inflicted on Scotland.
 
The research by Sheffield Hallam University, found that the welfare cuts will cost Scotland £1.66bn a year, totalling £4.5bn by 2015, and will significantly widen the gap between rich and poor.

The biggest financial losses are from changes to incapacity benefits, which are estimated at about £500m a year.
 
Significantly, councils covering the poorest areas are being hit hardest, further entrenching Britain’s deep income inequalities.  Glasgow will be worst hit, with the city’s economy set to lose almost £270 million a year, equivalent to £650 a year for every adult of working age in the city.
 
The other three areas expected to be most affected are Inverclyde (£33 million a year, equivalent to £630 a year for every adult of working age) Dundee (£58 million a year, equivalent to £600 per adult of working age) and West Dunbartonshire (£36 million, £600 per adult of working age)
 
The report warns of the damage these cuts will have on fragile local economies. The report from Sheffield Hallam University concludes:
 
“The financial losses arising from the reforms will hit the most deprived parts of Scotland hardest.
 
“Glasgow in particular, but also a number of other older industrial areas, will feel the impact most.
 
“The loss of benefit income, which is often large, will have knock-on consequences for local spending and thus for local employment, which will in turn add a further twist to the downward spiral.
 
“A key effect of welfare reform will therefore be to widen the gaps in prosperity between the best and worst local economies across Scotland.”
 
Recent Scottish Government analysis found the cumulative impact of all the cuts in the UK Budget, autumn statement and spending review would be £4.5bn by 2015 – and could result in the loss of up to 17,000 jobs.
 
Around £1 billion of the cuts relate to children’s welfare, this includes changes to tax credits specifically relating to children, abolishing the health in pregnancy grant, the abolition of the child trust fund, the changes to income support and Child Benefit. The report notes that children are likely to be indirectly affected by other measures, such as the housing benefit reforms, and so the true impact on children is likely to be higher.
 
A recent opinion poll found that a clear majority of Scots want control of welfare decisions to be in the hands of the Scottish Parliament.  According to the YouGov poll, published in March, 53% of Scottish residents want welfare and pensions policy to be controlled by the Scottish Government.  Only 34% were opposed.  
  
The UK Government has categorically ruled out devolving tax and welfare as part of any enhanced devolution package, although this was a key demand of the “devo max” proposals.  All the anti-independence parties united in refusing to allow a separate question in next year’s referendum on further devolution.  Yes campaigners say this proves that the only means by which Scotland can gain control of welfare spending will be as a result of a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.  
 
Reacting to the report, SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn – who is Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee – commented:
 
“These new figures have once again laid bare the scale of the human and economic damage of Westminster’s brutal welfare cuts.
 
“The Bedroom Tax has rightly attracted widespread condemnation and protest, but sadly its devastating impact on the vulnerable is only the tip of the iceberg. From cuts to incapacity benefit to tax credit changes and child benefit cuts, the most vulnerable are being made to pay the price for Westminster’s economic incompetence.
 
“It is absolutely perverse that councils on Scotland covering the poorest areas are hit hardest. The UK is already the fourth most unequal society in the developed world – which is a disgraceful position for resource-rich Scotland to find itself in.
 
“What do these cuts say about the Westminster Government’s commitment to building a fairer society?
 
“But what is just as unforgivable is the long-term damage that these brutal cuts are doing to the economy. The Tories claim that these cuts are somehow necessary to secure economic recovery – but in fact they are in fact destroying jobs and destroying confidence in the economy.
 
“It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way. Scotland has already made its opposition to these welfare cuts absolutely clear, and a majority of Scots believe that the Scottish Government would be best at deciding welfare policy for Scotland. The case for this is now becoming unanswerable.”