We are putting people first for Scotland’s future - Lorna Slater
Every day I am contacted by people across our city concerned about the future. Many are concerned about the long-term impact of this pandemic and what it means for their jobs and their families, and many are worried about the impacts and legacy of Westminster’s cuts.
We are only two weeks away from the end of the UK Government’s job retention scheme, yet Covid cases are still surging. With some experts warning of further lockdown measures in the months ahead, the government has to support people and help them to make safer choices.
The end of furlough will coincide with a cut to the uplift in universal credit, which will make claimants over £1,000 a year worse off. It is a move that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation believes could plunge 500,000 people into poverty.
Analysis from Citizens Advice has found that one-third of all claimants could be pushed into personal debt because of the cut. Universal credit was already a harsh system, but, for many people in Edinburgh and beyond, this will make it worse.
A lot of the people who are writing to me are being squeezed from multiple directions, with the announcement of a regressive and punishing National Insurance increase that will disproportionately hit younger people and people on lower incomes.
It’s clear that we have to do things differently. And that’s what we are doing in Scotland. The future that we are building is one that puts people first. Last week saw the publication of our Programme for Government. It is a bold and ambitious plan, and one that I am very proud to have been a part of, and to support.
It takes vital steps to reform care, with an additional £800 million worth of investment over the course of this parliament. This will be supported by extra funding for healthcare and mental health services and the development of a system of wraparound childcare, helping families by offering care before and after school and during holidays.
The Raising Awareness of Child Poverty in Edinburgh project reports that one in five children in our city are growing up in poverty. We can’t let those children be forgotten. During this parliament we will be doubling the Scottish child payment to £20 a week, a step that will help families on stretched incomes and go part of the way to mitigating the damage being done by Downing Street.
But for Scotland to reach our full potential we need the powers to do so. In the areas where we can do so we are delivering vital changes, and with full powers we can do even more. That is why the Scottish Government is committed to holding an independence referendum in this current parliamentary term, in line with the democratic mandate received in May’s election – and, if the Covid crisis has passed, by the end of 2023.
Our country is at a historic crossroads. I can see the damage that is being done to our communities by Boris Johnson and his colleagues, and I can see the potential that is being held back. It doesn’t need to be this way. We have the opportunity to build a fairer, greener, independent future. It is an opportunity that we must seize.
Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity