JOAN McAlpine says that the brutal cuts imposed by the coalition Government can only be defended against if Scotland has full control over her own welfare state.
THE welfare cuts imposed by Westminster are the political equivalent of kicking an old lady’s zimmer away.
Perhaps that is why no one from the Tory Lib Dem coalition is prepared to go on a planned STV debate to defend their cruelty to the old, the infirm, the young and the most vulnerable.
Last time one of them tried – Tory hatchet man Iain Duncan Smith in Edinburgh – he was shamed by disabled protesters and their guide dogs who staged an impromptu demonstration.
The UK Government’s own figures show that 70,000 disabled Scots will lose money in the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments.
Another 100,000 will suffer hardship as a result of London’s bedroom tax.
A survey by Sheffield Hallam University has found the overall impact of these welfare cuts on Scotland is £1.66billion a year.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that the Tory Lib Dem coalition have refused to put up a speaker for the TV debate into the shape of a welfare state in an independent Scotland.
They would need to explain why the current cuts mean the UK is doing OK.
It’s definitely not OK if you are low or average paid, poor, unemployed or disabled.
The surge in the number of crippling pay day loans, too, is not OK.
The growth in food banks as families struggle to feed their children is not OK.
Nicola Sturgeon will argue the Yes case in the STV debate, explaining why Scottish people themselves should make the decisions about welfare. She will be pushing at an open door.
Over half of all Scots in a recent opinion poll said they thought such matters were safer in the hands of their own Scottish parliament.
At the moment, Scotland has no control at all over pensions or benefits, just as we don’t control our own taxes. That powerlessness isn’t OK either.
Yes, we have devolution and that helps protect us, up to a point.
Just last week, it was revealed that 20,000 people had applied to the Scottish Welfare Fund in the first three months of its existence.
The £33million fund was set up by Sturgeon to help the most needy affected by Westminster cuts.
Alex Salmond and Sturgeon also refused to pass on the 10 per cent cut in council tax benefit imposed by the London Treasury. That has helped 70,000 disabled Scots, ironically the same number who will suffer from Westminster’s switch to PIP.
SNP councils, though not Labour ones, have promised no evictions as a result of the bedroom tax.
But all this is only possible through very careful budgeting of the diminishing grant we receive from Westminster, which is set to get lower still.
Scotland sends around £60billion worth of taxes to the Treasury each year but a government we didn’t vote for at Westminster decides how much we get back.
If we had that £60billion to spend as we wished, we could create a fairer benefits system, which helped the most needy while still making work pay.
Don’t believe the lies about decency being unaffordable.
This is a UK Government who think it’s okay to spend £100billion renewing Trident nuclear weapons no one needs. For the last three decades, Scotland has sent more to London than we get back in spending.
In fact, the surplus amounts to a whooping £800 a person for every year for the last 30 years.
And we are more able than the austerity-struck UK to meet the cost of the welfare state in future.
Official figures show that pensions and benefits consume 52 per cent of the UK government’s money, but in an independent Scotland it would be 48 per cent.
Labour will argue the NO case against Sturgeon in the STV welfare debate.
Maybe that’s appropriate, given that Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have said future Labour government will keep the bedroom tax and most other Tory cuts.
So the UK welfare state won’t be OK in their hands either, which is why we need our own.