Social Security and the election

ballot box

While no-one would, or should, base their vote only on social security policies, it is good to know what the different parties are promising – and a useful indication of their general approach to society. So thank you Ian Davidson for ploughing through those pages for us and drawing up the summary below.

For their approach to social security, as well as their prioritisation of addressing climate change, the Greens should win hands down, but we know they haven’t got a chance of getting an MP elected in Scotland, so when it comes to voting, many of us will need to think tactically.

If there is a chance that the Tories might get in in your constituency, there are websites that can tell you the best tactical vote to keep them out– which in almost every case in Scotland will be a vote for the SNP. From the point of view of defeating the Tories, we must hope for a Labour government propped up by the SNP, which can be achieved whether we elect SNP or Labour MPs. (As the Liberals have said they will not work with Corbyn, a Liberal vote is a Tory vote.)

We recognise and welcome the promise of Labour’s manifesto, and the international significance of its determined move away from the politics of New Labour (and from the SNP’s Growth Commission!), but their reluctance to support Scotland’s right to self-determination is inexcusable. Those of us who believe that Scotland’s future should be decided by the people who live here, and not in Westminster, will hope to see a large contingent of SNP MPs to reinforce the mandate for another Independence referendum – which could be especially important if we get landed with another 5 years of Tory government.

Brief UK General Election Manifesto/Social Security analysis

Ian Davidson  27.11.19


(52 pages)

A whole range of benefit reforms: Scrapping Universal Credit, the 2 child limit, the Bedroom Tax and the punitive sanctions regime; ending the benefit freeze; reversing Universal Credit pensioner cuts; Full compensation for WASPI women.

NB: This is a statement of UK-wide policies which the SNP would seek to persuade the Westminster Parliament/government to implement & fund; it is not a statement of what the SNP propose to do currently within a devolved Scottish context.  However any commitment to spend more money UK-wide on a devolved service (e.g. the NHS) will result in increased block grant from the UK government to Scotland. To make matters more confusing, currently 15% of the UK social security budget spent in Scotland (consisting of DLA, AA, PIP etc.) is being transferred from the DWP to the Scottish Government. This programme is in its early stages (referred to below in the Scottish Labour manifesto).

Labour (UK):

(103 pages)

Universal Credit to be scrapped, with an interim scheme to end the 5 week waiting period pending replacement.  Also goodbye to the benefit cap, the 2 child limit, and the Bedroom Tax. Increases to Local Authority Housing Allowance/Housing Benefit rent levels. Top-up to ESA . End to the current disability assessments. Pension age increases capped at 66. After publication of the manifesto, the commitment was made to fully compensate WASPI’s.  

Scottish Labour:

All of above, plus: Improving Scottish benefit reforms; increasing the Scottish Welfare Fund, topping-up Child Benefit. (Though as this is an election for Westminster these are just political markers.)

Tories (UK):

Very brief reference to benefits – continued roll out of Universal Credit; end benefit freeze; reduce number of disability re-assessments for people with long-term conditions.

Scottish Tories:

Nothing significant to add to UK manifesto.

Green Party (UK):

(92 pages)

Main statement (pp.26-27; 49-50): introduction of Universal Basic Income (UBI), an unconditional payment to all adults. This would gradually replace existing social security benefits, but requires more detail (e.g. on future housing costs);  It is linked to Living Wage proposals.

Scottish Greens:

The Scottish manifesto (28 pages) pulls together key poverty issues (p18-19) from the UK manifesto.

Liberal Democrats:

(100 pages)

Main commitments (pp 62-66): Scrap: the Bedroom Tax, and the two child limit. Reduce the waiting time for the first Universal Credit payment to 5 days. Various changes to work capability assessments, sanctions, local housing allowances. Implement Ombudsman’s WASPI report.

Scottish Liberal Democrats:

Unable to locate Scottish LD manifesto.


  1. The manifestos are statements of intent by each party in the event of winning an overall majority. Otherwise, the “commitments” may form part of any trade-offs between parties.
  2. WASPI: women born after 1950 affected by increase in state pension age from 60/65, (66/67).
  3. Each party has used different styles and terminology. “Social security” is just one policy heading; you need to look at broader issues such as housing, employment, equalities, funding of essential services etc. to make an informed judgement on each party’s approach to welfare.

Perhaps the most appropriate way to finish is to refer to:

Analysis by Resolution Foundation of the three main UK party manifestos (excluding Greens and SNP): clear conclusion that the Conservatives’ policies will increase child poverty. Also, general lack of vision amongst all three parties as to the future shape of social security.


One thought on “Social Security and the election

  1. Well edited by Sarah; any errors in analysis are mine. I “lost the will to live” towards the end of the manifesto analysis process & had to deal with a family crisis before final draft. I have voted (by post) SNP, as I have done at virtually every election since 1980 as I believe that independence is the best way forward for “social justice” in Scotland, and perhaps, ultimately by example, other parts of the UK. I would welcome JC’s election, he offers something new. However I believe that even with a victory, JC and indeed any UK administration attempting to implement genuinely socialist policies will face an onslaught from the media, financial sector, other governments, security services etc, which is likely to end with many of the policies being thwarted. I view the SNP as an (imperfect) means to an end. I don’t believe in preaching to other folks how they should vote. However, it is hard to see how a vote for the Tories would ever result in better lives for the majority, based on what they have done in my lifetime. I know a few Tory politicians who on a personal level may be genuine human beings. However as a collective political entity, the Conservative and Unionist Party offers zero hope for all but the wealthy. The Liberal Democrats made some bad decisions 2010-2015 in the UK Tory coalition and the real consequences of benefit cuts made at that time are still “rolling out”. Depending on where you live and your priorities, the Greens, SNP & Labour seem to offer the best or least worst “package of hope”. To vote only on Brexit would be a mistake as this government could be in power for up to 5 years which is a long time to do a lot of bad things to a lot of people. Whatever the result of this GE, we can be sure that economic, political and social turmoil will continue throughout the UK in 2020. As I have now voted by post, I have nothing else to say on this GE until after 13.12.19. Use your vote and use it wisely. Cheers!


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