Nicola Sturgeon just told Theresa May where she can stick her ‘callous and uncaring’ policies. And it’s not Scotland. [VIDEO]

Support us and go ad-free

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has sent a warning to Westminster not to attempt to force Scotland to follow the “callous and uncaring” austerity programme that it has forced on England and Wales.

The letter from Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon penned a column for The Daily Record which reads like an open letter to Theresa May and her Conservative government. The letter delivers the message that ideological austerity is “not what the Scottish Parliament signed up to”.

Following the 2014 independence referendum, the Conservative government made promises about Scotland’s autonomy on social security policy. But since then, the Conservatives have sought ways around the promise. One is to enforce the benefit cap in Scotland – which would tie the Scottish parliament’s hands on welfare. For example, Scotland has agreed to abolish the bedroom tax. But if the Conservatives force the cap on the devolved government in Scotland, they might not be able to do so for claimants who would then exceed the cap.

Sturgeon writes:

Let me be clear, time and again, up to now, everyone including the Tories agreed that the benefit cap wouldn’t affect social security 
decisions taken by the Scottish Government.

The cross-party Smith Commission agreed and the Secretary of State for Scotland confirmed it in the House of Commons – under pressure from SNP and Labour MPs.

And the financial arrangements for the Scotland Act put it in black and white.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

That rule is fundamental to our delivery of a social security system in Scotland and we need absolute clarity from the UK Government that they won’t take funds off the very people we are trying to help.

We’ve seen the callous and uncaring approach taken by the UK Government to the welfare system. We don’t want to see that continued in Scotland in those areas – still far too limited – where we have the power to make a difference.

When assessing the damage ideological austerity has done to welfare claimants and carers across the UK, it is difficult not to side with Sturgeon.

The benefit cap

The benefit cap was announced in 2010 and rolled out in 2013. In November 2016, the Conservative government reduced the total amount any family can claim from £26,000 to £20,000 (outside London). The arbitrary cap takes no account of real world costs of living for low-income families, particularly those dealing with illness and disability. As The Canary‘s Steve Topple reported last year, the impacts were immediate:

In Grimsby, this has left at least 62 families with just 50p, or nothing at all, in Housing Benefit. Prior to the new cap, these families had already seen their housing benefit cut. Also, the benefit cap affects families’ Child Benefit, many on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Incapacity Benefit.

In Luton, families will have £1.9m wiped off their income. This will affect 2,000 children. Some households have lost £116 in Housing Benefit after the cap was introduced. Robin Porter of Luton Borough Council said:

Once again decisions made by central Government will have a knock on effect for residents in Luton.

And in Liverpool, preliminary analysis has suggested that around 1,950 families, including 6,600 children, will lose out. Some families in Wirral and Sefton, for example, will lose up to £115 a week.

The bedroom tax

The bedroom tax strips housing benefit from claimants with ‘spare’ bedrooms. Like the benefit cap, it doesn’t account for reality. It ignores the impacts of the housing crisis, and the requirements of disabled claimants and their carers. In fact the first person to face eviction under the bedroom tax was severely disabled Lorraine Fraser of North Lanarkshire.

Just two years before the bedroom tax, Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council moved 46-year-old Lorraine into a specially adapted flat with a wheelchair ramp, wet room and hand rails. In 2013, she faced court action over £248 arrears in bedroom tax and a letter from North Lanarkshire Council stating:

I can advise you that North Lanarkshire Council has commenced court action to evict you from your home.

It was only a vigorous local campaign which saved Fraser from losing her home. Others were not so lucky. In Carlisle, a 2016 study found a surge in evictions for the area’s biggest social landlord. And one-in-three was related to the bedroom tax.

study on the effects of the bedroom tax by the University of Manchester found that it left children in poor families “hungry and stressed”. Its authors concluded:

The findings of this study confirm a wider picture emerging from research which points to the bedroom tax failing to meet its original aims while contributing to significant hardship among low-income families.

A matter of independence

Scotland has chosen to protect its citizens from the ideological austerity of the Conservative and New Labour governments. Free prescriptions, no tuition fees, a refusal to implement callous and unnecessary cuts to welfare. This commitment to social democracy distinguishes the devolved government of Scotland from its Westminster counterpart.

Westminster is creating the conditions for Scotland to leave the union.

While the fear campaign against independence won a narrow victory in 2014, much has changed since. Remaining in the union today means something very different. Brexit, enforced ideological austerity, and an increasingly concerning trans-Atlantic alliance with President Trump. It also means being tied to Westminster’s refusal to honour international obligations to child refugees.

If it comes to a showdown, the Westminster government’s bullish tactics may well cost them the union.

Featured image via Flickr/Wikipedia

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed