By Sean Martin
TWO MSPs have criticised the Department for Work and Pensions after it refused to respond to concerns over the impact welfare cuts have had in Scotland.
SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse condemned the DWP, run by Conservative politician Iain Duncan Smith, for not responding to his questions after he submitted an enquiry regarding a specific constituent’s situation.
However, the South Scotland representative was told the DWP would only respond to questions from members of the Westminster Parliament and not Holyrood MSPs.
He has now written back to the department criticising this approach, which he believes contradicts the DWP’s duty to reply to any parliamentarian who writes to them on behalf of a constituent.
Mr Wheelhouse said: “Westminster’s welfare cuts are having a devastating impact for communities in the south of Scotland and across the country – for the DWP to refuse to respond to MSPs on this issue is disrespectful and nothing less than an insult to the ordinary people suffering as a result of these policies.
“The DWP may want to stick their fingers in their ears when MSPs ask them to face the consequences of their disastrous welfare cuts – but they can’t be allowed to ignore the devastating impact their policies are having on communities across Scotland.”
He added: “If a member of the public doesn’t feel comfortable approaching an MP who supported the very changes that so damaging, then their choice of alternative elected representative should be respected by the DWP.”
Mr Wheelhouse’s fellow South Scotland MSP, Joan McAlpine, wrote to Duncan Smith personally after a visit to a Dumfries foodbank.
In the letter, dated Thursday 7 August 2014, McAlpine urged the senior Tory to take responsibility for the hardship his “draconian sanctions regime and benefits cuts” have caused.
Ms McAlpine touched on the proliferation of foodbank usage throughout Scotland and the effect of zero-hour contracts on those seeking full-time employment.
She concluded the letter by asking the Work and Pensions Secretary to clarify exactly what measures are in place to prevent people from being sanctioned for going back on benefits due to what she termed “unreliable zero-hour contracts”.
Ms McAlpine added afterwards that, in her opinion, the welfare reforms endorsed by the Westminster government were failing to create a fairer society and tackle poverty.
She said: “Iain Duncan Smith’s punitive welfare policies are punishing the people in our society who can least afford it – and we are seeing the evidence of this at foodbanks up and down the country.
“We have seen a 400 per cent increase in foodbank use in Scotland since Westminster’s welfare cuts started to bite – it’s time Iain Duncan Smith faced up to the truth and accepted his responsibility for this and took immediate action to rectify the situation.”