A number of prominent third sector organisations have called for UK Government proposals for further welfare devolution to be strengthened.
The statement - signed by Close the Gap, Engender, the Electoral Reform Society Scotland, Scottish Women's Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, the Scottish Refugee Council and others - also raises "serious concerns" about the proposals as they currently stand. The organisations call for:
- Employment support to be devolved in full, as per the Smith Agreement.
- The veto over changes to the housing element of Universal Credit (UC) to be removed.
- The roll-out of UC and PIP to be halted.
- The power to create new benefits to be included, as per the Smith Agreement.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already made clear that the UK Government's proposals fall 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 have previously described the proposals as a missed opportunity.
Commenting, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:
"Westminster must take heed of these concerns raised by these respected organisations. As this statement – signed by 12 key third sector groups - makes clear, there is still time to strengthen the UK Government's proposals on welfare devolution.
"Women are bearing the brunt of Westminster's unfair cuts to benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions – with 85 per cent of these cuts falling on them since 2010. On top of this, 100,000 more children in Scotland face poverty by 2020 and in-work poverty is rocketing.
"But the UK Government's current proposals fall far short of the powers Scotland needs to create a welfare system that empowers and protects vulnerable and hard-working people. What is on offer waters down the Smith Commission proposals and gives Westminster a veto over key devolved powers, including the ability to abolish bedroom tax.
"The SNP stands with the third sector in their call for proposals on welfare to be strengthened. Extensive powers over welfare are employment would help make Scotland's families better off - empowering and protecting our most vulnerable people.
"And a strong team of SNP MPs will ensure the Westminster parties are not allowed to forget the 'Vow' they made to the people of Scotland – using their clout to push the case for more powers at every opportunity."