As Tories prepare to cut Universal Credit, SNP is working on alternative facts to hide economic reality – Ian Murray MP
Over the last 18 months, we have come together to support each other. But even with the worst of Covid hopefully entering the rear-view mirror, many people across the country still face great hardship.
Some of those who do so rely on the vital support of Universal Credit. It’s used to feed families, heat homes and pay bills.
Despite what some in the Tory party claim, almost 40 per cent of those in receipt of Universal Credit are in work.
Our social security system was designed to give people a leg up in times of need, and that’s exactly what it should be doing.
But after a decade of Conservative government, trying to falsely divide people into ‘shirkers’ and ‘strivers’, and an SNP administration in Holyrood that prefers slogans to action, many of the gains made by the last Labour government, like Sure Start and reductions in child poverty, have been reversed.
And it’s not over yet. The necessary £20 per week Universal Credit uplift, put in place to support struggling families, is set to be cut by the Tories in October, despite widespread opposition.
New analysis published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown this will be the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since the foundation of the modern welfare state and will impact around 5.5 million families.
In Edinburgh South, 4470 working age families will be hit and 2100 with children. Overall, a third of working-age families with children will see a £1,040-a-year cut to their incomes.
When we are trying to rebuild our economy from the difficulty of the last 18 months, it is utterly senseless to be taking so much from those that have so little.
When Parliament returns in a fortnight, my Labour colleagues and I will be fighting this cut with every tool at our disposal.
It will be up to Tory MPs, like Douglas Ross, to choose between standing up to the Prime Minister or falling in line behind yet more callous cuts.
In Scotland, we have the power to make different choices, thanks not only to devolution but the shared prosperity of being part of the UK.
If the SNP is serious about preventing the hardship caused by this cut, they will use the Scottish Parliament’s powers. They could start by immediately doubling the Scottish Child Payment.
Last week saw the publication of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures (Gers). They make sobering reading. Scotland’s deficit was £36.3 billion, equivalent to almost a quarter of Scottish GDP.
By being part of the UK, Scots get an extra £2,210 per person in public spending.
With these figures in black and white, you would think Scottish government ministers would have a degree of humility about their reckless plans for giving it all up.
Instead, the Finance Secretary claimed the eye-watering gap, equivalent to double the annual Scottish NHS budget, was “not an obstacle” to independence and said she would set out a pro-independence, alternative Gers. Alternative facts more like. Where have I heard that before?
Those who want to rip Scotland out of the UK should be honest about what public services they would decimate or what it would do to social security and pensions. I won’t hold my breath.
Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South