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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Westminster Undermining Scotland’s Efforts to Tackle Poverty

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UK stuck in Tory Poverty Trap under Westminster control.

The SNP has said Scotland needs independence to escape the “Tory poverty trap” that has gripped the UK for decades and is being made even worse by the Tory cost of living crisis.

Following a “disgraceful” UK spring budget, Alison Thewliss MP warned the Westminster government is “actively undermining Scotland’s efforts to tackle poverty and exacerbating the problem” by imposing Tory cuts and tax hikes, and consistently failing to use its reserved powers to reverse rising UK poverty levels.

The SNP Shadow Chancellor pointed to the contrast between the Scottish Government, which has introduced the Scottish Child Payment, doubled it, and is now increasing it again to £25 per child per week by the end of 2022 – amounting to £1,300 of support per eligible child per year – as part of its Tackling Child Poverty plan.

The Scottish Government has also uprated eight Scottish benefits by 6%, has a generous Council Tax Reduction scheme, and is spending millions mitigating Tory austerity policies, including £71million on discretionary housing payments which mitigate the hardship caused by the UK Government’s Bedroom Tax, and will be investing a further £10million announced to mitigate the benefit cap.

In addition, the Scottish Government is providing more support to families than any other part of the UK, including a Real Living Wage for public sector workers and contracts, free personal and nursing care, free University tuition, free bus travel for under 22s, older and disabled people, the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), lower average council tax and lower average water rates.

In stark contrast, the Westminster government has slashed Universal Credit by £1040, made real-terms cuts to benefits for more than a decade, slashed the triple lock on pensions, presided over stagnant real wages, and imposed a range of damaging policies that have made people poorer, including a hard Brexit costing the economy billions, the National Insurance tax hike, the VAT tax hike, the Bedroom Tax, the Benefit cap, the Two-Child Cap and rape clause, scrapping the EMA, and raising University tuition fees to £9,250 a year.

OECD figures show the UK has the worst poverty and inequality in north west Europe.

Following the spring budget, the Resolution Foundation estimates an additional 1.3 million people will be pushed into absolute poverty in 2022/23 including 500,000 children.

The think tank’s analysis shows typical working-age household incomes could fall by 4 per cent in real-terms from April, a loss of £1,100, with the incomes of the poorest quarter of households set to fall by 6%.

Commenting, SNP Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The UK is stuck in a Tory poverty trap.

“Westminster is actively undermining Scotland’s efforts to tackle poverty and exacerbating the problem by imposing harmful Tory cuts and tax hikes, and failing to use its reserved powers to support families.

“The past decade has shown that independence is the only way to keep Scotland safe from Tory austerity cuts and damaging Westminster decisions like Brexit.

“Only with the full powers of independence can Scotland escape the damage of Westminster control, and build a fair society where we can eradicate poverty.

“As it stands, for every step Scotland takes forward in tackling poverty, Westminster is dragging us back.

“While the SNP government has introduced progressive policies like the Scottish Child Payment and is increasing it to £25 a week, the Tory government is taking money away from those same families by slashing Universal Credit and imposing real-terms cuts to benefits, and not introducing a living wage.

“Under the Tories, the UK already has the worst levels of poverty and inequality in north west Europe, and the highest in-work poverty this century.

“But instead of tackling action to reverse rising poverty, the UK government will likely push 1.3million more people into poverty this year.

“Rishi Sunak’s spring budget was a disgrace which showed how completely out of touch with hard-pressed families he is.

“He hasn’t got a clue about the impact of rising poverty on his watch and needs to get a grip of the cost of living crisis.

“The Tories will always prioritise making the rich richer over helping the poor, and Scotland will always be hamstrung under Westminster control.

“The SNP will continue to press the UK government for a meaningful package of support for families – but only the full powers of independence can guarantee a fairer and more prosperous future for Scotland.”

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