Delegates at the SNP conference have welcomed the interim findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, which condemned the UK Government’s “shameful” decision to make poverty “a political choice”.
The Special Rapporteur – an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council – visited the UK in 2018 and will make a full report to the UN in the summer.
In his interim report he warned that welfare cuts, policy changes, along with the Tory government’s “state of denial” on poverty, have led to extremely high levels of poverty in the UK.
Philip Alston called the UK Government’s system of welfare cuts “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous,” and warned that it breaks human rights obligations.
He also claimed the Government was ”ignoring” the fact that Brexit was exacerbating the problem of poverty.
Shona Robison MSP said: “The impact of Tory welfare cuts were laid bare in this absolutely damning report – which highlights clearly that the UK government’s agenda of austerity is pushing hundreds of thousands of people into poverty.
“Since the Special Rapporteur’s visit, the Tories have done little to disprove the claim that they are in denial about the problem of poverty in the UK – with DWP ministers completely missing the point of the report, and dismissing its findings.
“Their “head in the sand” approach to poverty is shameful.
”This Tory government cannot be allowed to force more austerity onto Scottish families and children. They must listen to all of the evidence of hardship and damage they are causing and urgently reassess their approach to welfare.
“Otherwise, the Scottish Parliament must be given full powers over social security, so that we can create a fair system with dignity and respect at its heart and prevent even more Scots being dragged into financial hardship.”
Conference notes with concern the interim findings by Professor Phillip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, following a fact-finding visit to the UK in November 2018.
Conference believes it is unjust that in a country as rich as the UK, so many people are living in poverty. Conference further believes that this is a political choice, and notes that in his interim findings, Prof Alston described the UK Government’s approach to welfare as “punitive, mean spirited and often callous”.
Conference further notes this is not the first time the UK Government has been criticised by the UN with an inquiry concluding in November 2017 that austerity policies introduced into welfare and social care by the UK government amount to “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities.
In contrast, Conference welcomes the Scottish Government’s strong Human Rights actions and attempts to mitigate the UK Government’s damaging cuts where it can. Conference further notes Scottish Government schemes to address poverty, including the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, Social Security Agency, that promises to treat everyone with dignity and respect and eschew benefit sanctions.
Conferences echoes concerns from the UN that the UK Government is in state of denial. As such, conference calls for the UK Government to accept the findings of the full UN report when it is published later this year and urgently reassess their approach to welfare and poverty.
SHONA ROBISON MSP
ALISON THEWLISS MP