Concerns over how £12bn welfare cuts will affect devolved social security powers
Social justice secretary Alex Neil has called for an inter-governmental meeting to discuss the implications of a planned £12 billion welfare cut on powers contained in the new Scotland Bill.
The minister has called on the UK government to clarify the extent of its proposed cuts and urgently outline how they will impact on Scotland’s new devolved social security powers.
In a letter to secretary of state for Scotland David Mundell, Mr Neil asked for the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare to be reconvened as soon as possible in order to discuss the impact of the proposed cuts.
The cabinet secretary also reiterated the Scottish Government’s concerns that the current Scotland Bill’s proposals for the devolution of social security and employment support services do not yet meet the spirit or substance of the Smith Commission.
His letter follows the publication of two welfare reform studies which reveal many people accessing UK government benefits are being pushed into crisis situations and living in constant fear of further cuts, with disabled people particularly distressed by their treatment.
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 £12bn 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.
“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.”