By a Newsnet reporter
Protesters have gathered across Scotland and throughout the UK to oppose the Westminster Government’s Bedroom Tax, as the Scottish government promised there will be no let up in the opposition to the policy.
With SNP MSPs joining Greens, Scottish Socialists and people from across Scottish communities in protests against the Bedroom Tax, the party has highlighted that at every level the SNP is at the forefront of opposition to the deeply unfair policy that will tear people out of their communities and drive thousands of people deeper into poverty.
The cut to Housing Benefit comes into effect on Monday 1 April. It is estimated that some 100,000 Scottish tenants in council housing or who rent from housing associations will be affected by the new policy, which penalises tenants who are deemed to have a spare bedroom.
Affected tenants will see a cut of at least £14 a week in their income. It is estimated that Scottish tenants will lose a total of £53 million as a result of the cut.
The UK government claims that it is taking the action in order to assist larger families who have been left on council housing waiting lists, and note that many 2 or 3 bedroom properties are occupied by single people or couples without children. However critics point out that there is not a sufficient stock of one-bedroom properties available for households consisting of a single person or a couple.
Disabled people who require a spare room for storing mobility equipment, or where the disabled person’s partner is unable to share a bedroom with them, are expected to be badly affected by the Bedroom Tax.
SNP controlled local authorities have adopted motions promising not to evict tenants who get into rent arrears as a result of the Bedroom Tax.
Public anger over the cuts has resulted in a number of demonstrations and protests. Over 3000 joined the march in Glasgow, while over 1000 demonstrated in Edinburgh, according to police estimates. March organisers claim that the numbers attending were higher. Yes Scotland banners were prominent in the march.
Speaking to the Daily Record, Alice Bowman, of the Radical Scottish Independence Campaign, said:
“Only four out 45 Scottish MPs voted in favour of the bedroom tax. In an independent Scotland we will have our voices heard, and have control of our own budget.”
Saturday’s protests came on the same day that the Westminster Government’s own poverty Tsar Frank Field launched a brutal attack on the Bedroom Tax, saying:
“The government is introducing social and physical engineering on a scale that Stalin would have been proud of. The way they are doing it is so extraordinary.”
Mr Field believes that the Bedroom Tax is doomed to failure, and contrary to UK government assertions it is “Treasury driven” and intended to reduce UK expenditure. He said:
“It is Treasury driven. There are always schemes in the department like this horrible one which civil servants take off the shelf.”
Mr Field stated that the Bedroom Tax is fatally flawed as housing associations were encouraged to build two- and three-bedroom accommodation “irrespective of what the size of the population is”. He estimates that the UK government will save £500m as many people will take a cut in housing benefit because they cannot move.
Socialist politician and former MSP Tommy Sheridan spoke at the rally in Glasgow. Mr Sheridan said:
“We have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have turned out here today.
“This issue is bigger than Labour versus SNP; this is not about left and right it is about right and wrong and the bedroom tax is wrong.”
Commenting SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said:
“On the weekend before this dreaded attack on more than 100,000 households across Scotland, people are coming together to send an unmistakable message to Westminster; that the Bedroom Tax is a disgusting policy and must be scrapped.
“At every level of Government, the SNP has been at the forefront of efforts to oppose and overturn the Bedroom Tax.
“At Westminster where over 90% of Scottish MPs voted to oppose the policy, the SNP group led a debate on opposition to the Bedroom Tax. In Scotland, the Scottish Government has brought in a series of mitigation measures and has made a firm commitment to scrap the policy in an independent Scotland.
“And at local authority level. SNP-led councils have committed not to evict tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax who are doing all they can to avoid falling into arrears, in contrast to several Labour local authorities who have refused to follow suit.
“There is no doubt that the Bedroom Tax is an abhorrent policy and the level of outrage surrounding what is being imposed is entirely justified.
“The Bedroom Tax needs to be scrapped completely, and the Scottish Parliament needs the powers to scrap it. Only a Yes vote in September 2014 will give us the chance to do that, and ensure that welfare in Scotland reflects the values of people living here rather than the values of the Westminster system.”
Pamela Nash, Labour MP for Airdrie and Shotts, said: “I joined the thousands of people who marched in Glasgow and throughout the UK today against the bedroom tax.
“This is a disgraceful, badly thought-out policy and the Tory-led Government should do the right thing, admit that they got it completely wrong and abandon it immediately.
“My local authority, North Lanarkshire Council, has over 5,500 tenants affected by the bedroom tax, but as of last month, only 26 one-bedroom houses (were) available for rent.
“The Government wants people to give up their ‘spare’ rooms, but they have nowhere else to go. This policy will simply cut their benefits.
“Tory policy appears to be to cut the benefits of the poorest in our society at the same time as they give tax breaks to the rich; attacking the most vulnerable when they need support.”
However, as reported by Newsnet Scotland, the Labour run local authority in Ms Nash’s constituency has refused to back a no-eviction policy. The Labour party supports the Bedroom Tax penalty for people who decline to move to smaller accomodation if it is available.