Scottish Labour has accused the Scottish National Party (SNP) of leaving disabled people “to the mercies of a Tory government”.
Scottish Labour has highlighted figures showing that tens of thousands of people are being told to attend disability benefit assessments, despite a pledge by the Scottish Government to reduce the need for assessments and ban private firms from carrying out the tests.
Figures show that 130,000 sick and disabled Scots were assessed for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) over the last year, which is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
The assessments have been heavily criticised by campaigners, charities, and a number of high-profile politicians, including Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams, who last year called for both PIP and Employment and Support Allowance assessments to be scrapped.
The Scottish Government has promised action to reduce the need for PIP assessments, but Scottish Labour say the changes will come too late to help a large number of claimants.
Scottish Labour’s social security spokesman Mark Griffin said: “For years SNP ministers have, rightly, criticised Tory reforms to welfare benefits for treating people with disabilities cruelly.
“They have promised that they would restore respect and dignity in the new Scottish social security system.
“But now they are prepared to leave some of Scotland’s most vulnerable citizens to the mercies of a Tory Government until the end of the decade.”
SNP social security minister Jeane Freeman rejected the allegation. “There is no delay to the devolution of these social security powers”, said Freeman.
“Labour should know that it is only once we have the legislative framework in place – the process which is currently under way – that it is possible to start delivering the social security payments.
“We have repeatedly called on the UK Government to halt the roll-out of PIP in Scotland, which has caused many people to undergo stressful assessments and lose entitlement with devastating consequences.
“The priority for those who want to protect people in Scotland from the UK Government’s new system should be to stop the roll-out of PIP altogether.
“Ironically, if Labour had had their way then these powers would have remained in Westminster’s hands in perpetuity.
“By contrast, the SNP campaigned tirelessly for these powers to be taken out of the hands of the Tories, and are working to build a system which has dignity and respect as its core principles.”