The SNP has criticised the Tory government for its ‘deliberate’ failure to tackle poverty, after the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty reports that the UK’s social security net has been ‘badly damaged’ by the Tories’ ‘ideological’ austerity agenda.
Philip Alston’s report found that although the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, one fifth of its population (14 million people) are living in poverty, and 1.5 million experienced destitution in 2017. It also predicted that 40% of children will be living in poverty by 2021 - which Alston called a ‘social calamity’ and ‘economic disaster rolled into one’ – and warned that if Brexit were to happen, it is likely to have a massive detrimental impact on the most vulnerable in our society.
Alston describes the UK social security system as a ‘digital and sanitised version of the 19th century workhouse’ and calls the Tories’ decision to dismantle the welfare safety net ‘ideological’. Alston notes the increase in Universal Credit allowances and plans to introduce a consistent measure of poverty but calls this ‘window dressing to minimise political fall-out’.
The report acknowledges the efforts of the SNP Scottish Government in trying to mitigate the impacts of the austerity policies, despite Tory cuts to Scotland’s block grant funding. Alston praises Scotland’s social security system – a system based on dignity and respect.
Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Neil Gray MP said:
“This UN report is a damning indictment of the Tory government and its shameful legacy of worsening poverty and inequality across the UK – the UK government must halt its austerity agenda now and follow Scotland’s lead by building a social security system based on dignity and respect.
"A decade of Tory austerity cuts, and the deliberate dismantling of the welfare state, has resulted in growing destitution in our communities - and it is a warning that Brexit will compound the damage done, leaving the whole country even worse off.
“Brexit has already made people poorer, and Tory plans to drag Scotland out of the EU against our will would be devastating - costing up to 100,000 Scottish jobs and leaving every person in Scotland up to £2,300 worse off a year.
“Under Westminster's watch, by 2021 almost one in two children will be living in poverty – that is indeed, a ‘social calamity’ and it is an absolute disgrace that the Tories want to exacerbate this by proceeding with Brexit, which we know will be bad for everyone.
"People across Scotland can vote for the SNP tomorrow to stop Brexit and send the strongest possible message that we reject the Tories and their devastating cuts."
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights - https://undocs.org/A/HRC/41/39/Add.1