Two expert reports on poverty demonstrate exactly why Scotland can, should and must be independent, an SNP MSP has said.
A Joseph Rowntree Foundation briefing on the referendum and housing policy confirms that since power over housing policy was devolved to Scotland it has been “used effectively to benefit vulnerable households”.
Another report published by the University of Glasgow highlights the fact that Scotland now has a lower rate of poverty than the rest of the UK – driven by the “improvement in the economic position of Scotland relative to the rest of the UK.”
Despite this progress, recent figures have shown that – as a result of Westminster welfare cuts – the number of people in Scotland forced to use food banks is up 400 per cent. Meanwhile, up to 100,000 more children in Scotland are being pushed into poverty.
And just this week Oxfam said that Westminster austerity is ‘blowing massive holes in the safety net’ while Peter Kelly of the Poverty Alliance recently told a Scottish Parliament committee that the UK Government is leading Scotland down “the wrong course” on welfare.
Commenting, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said:
“It was very telling that Iain Duncan Smith was too scared to come to Scotland this week to launch the latest anti-independence paper.
“Perhaps he was aware how hypocritical it is for them to scaremonger on welfare in an independent Scotland – while at the very same time his Government is making an estimated £6bn in welfare cuts to Scotland.
“Just as insulting was Alistair Carmichael’s claim on radio this week that Westminster’s welfare system was ‘fantastic’.
“Reports published this week are the latest in a series of valuable contributions to the debate on how best to tackle poverty in Scotland – but also make clear the damage that Westminster cuts are currently inflicting on the most vulnerable.
“The Joseph Rowntree report shows that where Scotland has the powers to do so, we have taken action to tackle poverty and are making progress.
“But a No vote would put this progress at risk – with figures showing that 100,000 children in Scotland could be pushed into poverty by 2020 as a result of Westminster’s welfare cuts.
“The Glasgow University report also shows that Scotland’s strong economic position has been vital in making progress on poverty – with a Yes vote we can ensure that all of Scotland’s vast economic resources are used to create a fairer, more equal society.
“Welfare spending and pensions are more affordable in Scotland than the UK because they account for a smaller proportion of our tax revenues and national income.
“A majority of people in Scotland want welfare decisions to be taken by the Scottish Parliament – but only independence can guarantee this happens.
“We simply can’t afford to let Westminster’s austerity obsession stall the progress we’ve made and plunge more people in Scotland into poverty – further underlining why Scotland can, should and must be independent.”
Peter Kelly of the Poverty Alliance said the following to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee:
“I think in terms of the policy choices that we make, it’s one of the ones that’s possibly the worst in my view because a lot of our welfare changes and Bill has just mentioned we could possibly be supportive of universal credit because it’s a simplification—it’s about easing the transition back into work. A lot of our welfare changes are predicated upon getting people back into work—making the system work more effectively. The welfare cap doesn’t do that and it’s not even intended to do that. Not a single person will be helped back into the labour market because of the welfare cap. Now, those kind of policy choices are the wrong ones. So, at the moment, we’re on the wrong course in terms of the policy direction that Mr Osborne has set out for us.”