The Scottish budget has all been rather predictable. A symbolically important, but cautiously small, move towards more progressive taxation by the SNP; outraged protests by Tories against this ‘Nat Tax’ on ‘hard-working’ Scots (because the low-paid obviously aren’t hard-working); lots of anti-SNP and lefty rhetoric from Labour but no actual substance (their website asks readers to agree with their plan, but doesn’t actually say what it might be): and the Greens setting out their demands for supporting the budget (more money for councils) while claiming credit for the best bits.
But, as we noted in our letter in today’s National, reproduced below, none of these parties has had anything to say about the missed opportunity to provide more help for people facing Tory benefit cuts. The First Minister tweeted
‘It is staggering how enraged @ScotTories are at those on higher incomes being asked to pay a little bit more to protect public services (while the 70% on low and middle incomes get small tax cut) – but don’t bat an eyelid when their own party cuts the incomes of disabled people.’
But almost no-one is pushing for the Scottish Government to help mitigate those cuts.
John Dickie, director of CPAG, provided an honourable exception, telling CommonSpace that
‘It is now vital that the government builds on the welcome investment in childcare, mitigating UK welfare reform and the tackling child poverty fund with the kind of step change boost to family incomes needed to meet its own child poverty targets.
‘Using social security top up powers to boost support for family incomes need to be added to this Budget as a matter of urgency. A £5 top up to child benefit for example, as supported by faith groups, the children’s commissioner and children charities, would in itself lift up to 30, 000 children out of poverty.’
(Russell Gunson, director of the Institute of Public Policy Research Scotland also called for more investment in the Scottish social security system, but at the expense of the tax-cut for low earners.)
We will need to campaign hard to make sure that welfare is on the agenda!
Here is our letter in today’s National:
The Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network recently submitted a petition calling on the Scottish Government to make more money available to mitigate the impact of UK Government welfare cuts through reassessing spending priorities and bringing in more progressive taxation. Well, we’ve got slightly more progressive taxation, but what about welfare? Why will there be so little extra help for the people who have suffered most from Tory cuts – and why is this not being protested by any of the political parties or the STUC?
The Scottish Government will continue to mitigate the Bedroom Tax and put money into the Scottish Welfare Fund, and they will fund the, already announced, small top-up to Carer’s Allowance and Best Start grants for children. But that is all they have said they will do. There is no extra help for people who have suffered major cuts to disability payments or lost mobility cars, or for people who can’t meet their rent due to the benefit cap, or people pushed into debt by Universal Credit. Nothing, such as a supplement to child benefit, to make up for years of cuts in the real value of benefits.
We believe that the Scottish Government has both a political and a moral duty to help people whose lives are being destroyed by heartless benefit cuts. We are fully aware that the attack on welfare comes from Westminster and that people in Scotland already get help that is not available south of the border; but if the Scottish Government and Parliament choose not to provide more help, then they will have to bear a share of responsibility for the consequences. The human argument should be enough, but failure to act will also cost more in the long run, as government has to pick up the cost of the inevitable strains put on health and social services as individuals and families collapse under the stress of fear and poverty.