The Scottish Government has demanded clarity over Tory plans to slash a further £12 billion from the welfare budget, it was revealed today (3 June).
The UK Government must detail how “swingeing” cuts will impact on Scotland’s new devolved social security powers, said Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil.
In a letter to Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, Mr Neil has requested an urgent meeting of the ‘Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare’ to discuss the impact of the cuts.
He also reiterated the Scottish Government’s position that proposals for the devolution of welfare powers, outlined in the new ‘Scotland Bill‘, do not yet fully meet the ‘spirit or substance’ of the Smith Commission.
Mr Neil said: “Both Governments need to come together as a matter of urgency to discuss how the draft Scotland Bill can be amended to fully meet the proposals of the Smith Commission.
“After the hard work of the Smith Commission it is disappointing to see the Scotland Bill neither matches its recommendations on substance or in spirit. If enacted, the Bill as published will not provide future Scottish Governments with the powers it was promised to be able to take distinct policy decisions or deliver reform.
“The Secretary of State for Scotland also needs to outline the detail of the UK Government’s planned £12 billion benefit cuts, and explain how they could impact on the Scotland Bill’s social security powers.
“Personal Independence Payment will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, but we have already heard the UK Government plans to slash it by 20 per cent – a move we have strongly argued against on the grounds of fairness.
“The UK Government is planning make even more swingeing cuts to benefits and we need to know if this includes benefits that are to be devolved. This would be wholly unacceptable.
Two recent studies have revealed how benefit changes are leaving vulnerable people in constant fear of further cuts, with disabled people left feeling marginalised and stigmatised because of welfare reforms.
Mr Neil said: “For the past five years we have had organisations lining up to tell us about the damaging effect of welfare reform and benefit cuts on the people of Scotland and we have seen report after report highlighting the distress and desperation caused.
“That is why I am so concerned about the further cuts that the UK Government is planning to make.”