Published: 23 January 2015
The SNP is today inviting Labour and the Lib Dems to join calls for the Westminster government’s proposals on welfare to be strengthened.
The welfare provisions contained in the draft clauses published yesterday represent a significant watering down of what was promised by the Smith Commission. They do not enable the Scottish Parliament to create new benefit entitlements in devolved areas – and will also see the UK Government hold a veto over key devolved powers, including the ability to abolish the Bedroom Tax.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday made clear the proposals fell far short of the powers needed to create a fairer welfare system. Leading campaign groups including Citizen’s Advice Scotland, the Poverty Alliance, SCVO and the STUC described the proposals as a missed opportunity.
Following the publication of the Smith Commission report in November, a number of Labour and Lib Dems MSPs claimed that the proposals would give Scotland the powers to shape a new welfare system.
Prior to yesterday’s publication of the draft clauses, Labour’s Education spokesperson Iain Gray said: “With the Smith agreement…We can construct a whole new Scottish welfare system of new benefits of our own design.”
Labour Finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie also claimed that welfare powers were “the most substantial power of all” while Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie claimed Scotland would have the ability to create “a new Scottish welfare system” with the powers to “create new benefits”.
Commenting, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:
“The welfare proposals outlined by the Westminster government yesterday were a disappointment – watering down the Smith Commission proposals and giving Westminster a veto over key devolved powers, including the ability to abolish bedroom tax. It is no wonder that organisations including Citizens Advice Scotland and the Poverty Alliance feel an opportunity has been missed.
“Following the publication of the Smith Commission in November last year, Labour and Lib Dem MSPs alike claimed that the Smith proposals would give Scotland a range of new powers over welfare. Frontbench Labour MSPs Iain Gray and Jackie Baillie and Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie all said this. Now it’s clear the Westminster Government’s proposals will not deliver, it is time for Labour and the Lib Dems to do the right thing. They must join the SNP and third sector organisations across Scotland in our call for an urgent rethink by the UK Government.
“Westminster has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted to protect vulnerable and hard-working people. As 100,000 more children in Scotland face poverty by 2020 as a result of unfair Tory cuts, it is time for Labour and the Lib Dems to stand up for Scotland and argue for the powers we need to create a welfare system that supports and empowers people.
“A strong team of SNP MPs will ensure the Westminster parties are not allowed the ‘Vow’ they made to the people of Scotland – and will use their clout to push the case for more powers at every opportunity.”