By Bob Duncan
New figures show that an extra 15,000 Scottish children will be pushed into poverty over the next three years as a direct result of Westminster’s Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill.
This figure does not take into account the UK government’s changes to Working Tax Credits and Child Benefit, which, say the SNP will add substantially to the number of children in Scotland below the poverty line.
SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn highlighted the figures, which were revealed in a Parliamentary Answer from Nicola Sturgeon, ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate on Child Benefit today.
The response said: “DWP are estimating that the uprating measures in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 will result in around an extra 200,000 children being in relative income poverty compared to uprating benefits by CPI.
“Based on Scotland’s current share of children in poverty, this will result in an estimated 15,000 children being pushed into poverty as a result of the 1% uprating of working-age benefits.”
When announcing the policy, UK Chancellor George Osborne claimed that out-of-work benefit rates had grown substantially faster than earnings since 2007.
However, critics have pointed out that this reflects the fact that earnings have not kept pace with inflation, whereas rates of out-of-work benefits (Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance) have risen broadly in line with prices. Opponents of the welfare changes have also pointed out that there have been significant cuts to the rates of other benefits and tax credits.
Commenting, Mr Hepburn who is the SNP MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, and the Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee, said:
“We can see clearly the devastating impact of Westminster’s welfare changes, with 15,000 children being pushed into poverty as a result of the one per cent uprating of working-age benefits.
“We know that child benefit cuts will see a family of two lose over £1,100 and a family with one child over £650.
“This does not even take into account the UK government’s other welfare changes that are having a destructive effect on people’s lives.
“While we in Scotland pursue a policy of greater equality and social justice, Westminster is determined to implement significant spending reductions across the welfare state that goes against those principles.
“The UK government’s welfare reform agenda is being driven by austerity – not by fairness.
“Only a Yes vote in 2014 can deliver powers over economic and welfare policy - and access to Scotland's abundant resources - that we need to deliver a fair society and dynamic economy.”
According to Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland in some areas one in three children grow up in poverty, which negatively impacts health, education, social and physical development and seriously harms future life chances and opportunities.
Mr Hepburn’s concerns follow comments from former Labour MP Dennis Canavan who described the welfare cuts being imposed by the UK government as “obscene”.
Speaking at the recent Yes Glasgow launch, Mr Canavan, now a leading figure in the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign, attacked Westminster MPs who he said were clamouring to “fill their own pockets” with a 32 per cent salary increase.
He added: “I think the majority of the people of Scotland would agree with me in seeing the obscenity of that”.
This week, Blair Jenkins, the head of Yes Scotland claimed that welfare cuts being imposed on Scotland by the Conservative government would be a key factor in persuading many Scots to opt for independence.
Hear Dennis Canavan’s full interview: