You can’t afford it! Unionists deride SNP claims they could hugely increase benefits handouts if Scotland was independent – even though England subsidises spending north of the border
Unionists today derided the SNP’s claim it could ‘transform lives’ by boosting benefits in an independent Scotland.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary, suggested Holyrood would be able to ‘go further’ on welfare if it severed links with the rest of the UK.
She insisted, by going it alone, an independent Scotland could ‘ensure everyone has a decent standard of living’.
Her comments came ahead of the publication of the latest paper in the Scottish Government’s series of proposals for independence.
The ninth paper in the Building a New Scotland series is set to launch on Wednesday.
But pro-Union campaigners pointed out how Scotland’s spending power would be vastly reduced if it no longer pooled resources with the rest of the UK.
They also accused the Scottish Government of ‘churning out’ independence papers in a bid to distract from SNP ‘scandals’.
Figures released earlier this year showed Scotland’s spending on public services for the 12 months to March 2023 was £19.1billion more than it raised in tax.
Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (Gers) figures also showed spending per person in Scotland was £19,459, compared to the UK average of £17,243.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary, suggested Holyrood would be able to ‘go further’ on welfare if it severed links with the rest of the UK
Pro-Union campaigners pointed out how Scotland’s spending power would be vastly reduced if it no longer pooled resources with the rest of the UK.
The new independence paper to be published by the Scottish Government is set to boast of the progress made by SNP ministers using the social security powers they already hold.
Ms Somerville said: ‘The Scottish Parliament has shown how Scotland can make different choices and deliver a fairer system with more positive outcomes.
‘Independence would provide us with an opportunity to go further and transform the way benefits are delivered in this country.
‘With independence, we could ensure everyone has a decent standard of living and provide a strong safety net people could turn to when times are financially tough.
‘Currently, the UK system fails to provide an adequate level of support for those who need it.
‘As a result, the UK has higher poverty rates than European nations that are comparable to Scotland.’
Ms Somerville said the Scottish Government has been able to introduce ‘transformative’ policies such as the Scottish child payment – £25 a week for eligible children – and has lifted an estimated 50,000 children out of relative poverty in 2023/24.
She added: ‘It is only with the full powers of independence that we could use the full fiscal and economic levers to tackle poverty in Scotland.’
But Pamela Nash, chief executive of the Scotland in Union campaign, said: ‘It is crystal clear that the SNP/Green Government is churning out these papers one after the other to try and distract voters from the scandals and the failures of our public services being reported every day.
‘But people are not daft and will see right through this. As part of the UK, we have more to spend on social security as we pool and share resources and risk across the entire country.
‘And when it comes to the social security powers devolved after the referendum, the Scottish Government took years and years to enact them, repeatedly asking the UK Government to continue provision – and the process still hasn’t been completed.
‘The Government’s previous papers have utterly failed to answer the most basic questions about leaving the UK, so if this one is to have any credibility it will explain the massive upheaval of breaking up our welfare state and the very real risk to pensions and benefits.’
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