Holyrood will defy Westminster over ‘draconian’ reform of benefits

Nicola Sturgeon: Warned bill would hit the most vulnerable. Picture: PA

Concerns over “draconian” changes to the welfare system will today see MSPs block the UK coalition government’s proposals to introduce the measures in Scotland.

It will be the first time in Holyrood’s 12-year history that a legislative consent motion (LCM), allowing Westminster to act on devolved matters, has been rejected by the parliament.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon warned that the controversial new Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments system would damage the lives of vulnerable people.

The SNP’s stand was welcomed by disability and voluntary sector groups last night.

The reforms are still likely to be introduced across the UK, but the Scottish Government will pass its own legislation to deal with the more contentious areas.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government supports a welfare system that is simpler, makes work pay and lifts people out of poverty. However, this approach is being fundamentally undermined by the UK government’s deep and damaging cuts to benefits and services that will impact on some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.

“We have put on the record our long-standing concerns about the lack of detail around key elements of the bill, which will have serious implications for devolved policies and services. Those concerns are shared by the parliamentary committees which have considered the bill.

“I urge MSPs to do the right thing, take a stand and register their opposition to these draconian measures which will adversely affect vulnerable people right across Scotland.”

The reforms have caused widespread anger and a report by Holyrood’s health committee earlier this month warned it could hit claimants, increasing pressure on homelessness and social care services and force disabled people to move home.

It also highlighted concern from children’s groups that 50,000 to 100,000 youngsters could be plunged into poverty.

The Universal Credit will replace most of the existing benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. Personal Independence Payments will replace disability living allowance.

MSPs will today allow Westminster to legislate on areas of the bill covering data sharing, industrial injuries disablement benefit and the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Bill Scott, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, the national disabled people’s organisation, said: “Inclusion Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government’s in-principle rejection of the UK proposals for devastating and damaging cuts to disabled people’s benefits and services.”

Richard Hamer, of Capability Scotland, added: “The devastating impact of the Welfare Reform Bill has been well-documented We believe the proposals are unfair, unjust and unacceptable and are proud that the Scottish Parliament has stood up against Westminster as we asked.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “These reforms will end the cycle of generations of Scots living a life on benefits whilst ensuring those people who need our help and support get it unconditionally. When one in five Scottish households is workless, something fundamental needs to change.”

The Scotsman

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