Holyrood ‘unlikely’ to be able to reverse all UK welfare cuts

John Swinney MSP
John Swinney MSP

Deputy first minister John Swinney has conceded that the Scottish Government may not be in a position to afford to reverse all of the welfare cuts being imposed by Chancellor George Osborne.

The finance secretary said it was “highly unlikely” he would find the £6 billion needed as the country needed to “live within the resources that are available to us”.

And he said he could not offer any guarantees that they would be reversed if the SNP was in charge of an independent Scotland.

The Conservative government has plans to reduce the welfare cap, cut tax credits and change benefits linked to housing and disability.

Mr Swinney told the BBC: “We must live within the resources that are available to us - we have had to wrestle with a reduction of expenditure in real terms of 10 per cent since the 2010 general election.”

He added: “Essentially this comes down to a question of affordability. I estimate that the cumulative loss of tax and benefit changes will be of the order of about £6 billion.

“If you are saying to me, can I find £6bn within the expenditure available to the Scottish government to reverse all of those decisions, I think that it is highly unlikely.”

Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government would continue to find the resources to give “significant assistance” to those affected - as it had in the case of changes such as the ‘bedroom tax’.

Asked if his government in an independent Scotland would reverse the Westminster cuts, Mr Swinney said it was important to run a “sustainable budget”.

He added: “What we would aim to do is put in place a welfare system that was affordable based on what we inherited when Scotland became an independent country.”

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