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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Better Together? Tory Cuts Mean Need to Devolve Welfare More Urgent Than Ever

Friday, 29 June 2012

The SNP has warned that it is now more urgent than ever that welfare is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, following a series of attacks by the Tory Westminster Government on the welfare and benefits system.

This week the conservatives outlined future proposals, which included regional benefit levels which would see cuts for people because they live in Scotland, removing or restricting some benefits to out-of-work families with large numbers of children and removing access to housing benefit for under 25s. There was no clarity over the plans or their timing, although the Prime Minister said he hoped to work on some of them during this parliamentary term.

The SNP has said that Scottish Government progress on tackling poverty and homelessness was put at risk by current and future welfare reforms from the UK Government.

Homelessness in Scotland fell by one fifth in the last year, with local authorities making progress towards meeting the commitment to ensure every unintentional homeless person has the right to a settled home by the end of 2012. But homelessness charity Shelter Scotland have warned that the Tory proposals “would leave thousands with nowhere to go and also hit vulnerable young people such as care leavers or those who have experienced family breakdown.”

The welfare announcement came on the day the Labour party shared a platform with the Tories at the launch of the ‘no’ campaign against independence. With the labour party already indicating support for regional welfare caps, the SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said voting for independence in 2014 was the only way to ensure a fair welfare system that meets Scotland’s needs.

Dr Whiteford said:

“The conservatives gave us a chilling glimpse into the future with their latest raft of ill-considered welfare cuts. Cutting benefits simply because of where you live, or how old you are risks forcing the most vulnerable in society into a perilous position. But a future Labour government at Westminster cannot be trusted to reverse these plans. Indeed Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne has already stated Labour’s support for regional welfare caps.

“As for Scottish Labour, instead of standing up for the vulnerable, they are standing together with the Tories. It’s for them to explain how we can be ‘better together’ under the Tories than making decisions for ourselves in Scotland.

“Axing housing benefit for the under 25s could leave thousands of vulnerable young people on the streets. Not everyone has a home to go to – and housing benefit changes already in place will force people with spare rooms to move home and penalise adults living at home.

“The Conservatives are throwing around half-baked, misguided welfare proposals without consideration of the implications for the real lives they affect. Instead of getting to work on the detail of the existing reforms, and making sure proper plans and resources are in place, they are trying to divert attention from their failing policies with further attacks on the most vulnerable.

“The latest Tory announcements are not so much reform as an all-out assault on the most disadvantaged. No wonder polls show 67% of people want the Scottish Government to take control of welfare and benefits – and not leave this crucial issue to London politicians.

“There is no doubt the welfare system needs reform but the deep and damaging cuts to benefits and services fundamentally undermine the system. The Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament are doing their best to mitigate the damage of Tory welfare reforms where it has the power to do so, but full powers are needed to build a better system.

“These latest welfare attacks show yet again the different stance Scotland would take if we had the power to legislate on this issue and it is our clear view that it is the Scottish Parliament, not the UK Parliament, that should decide on welfare policy for Scotland – as would be the case if Scotland was independent.”

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