East Kilbride News Column – 19.04.17

My last column for the EK News outlined the support that the Scottish Government will give to those who are sick or disabled in their search for work. This followed the transfer of new powers over employment support to our Parliament in Scotland.


This also followed the cut by the Westminster Government of £30 a week to Employment Support Allowance with no support package to help disabled people meet the additional costs of disability. A particularly awful measure, even for the Tory Government and their abysmal record of social security cuts which especially impact some of the most vulnerable people in our society.


Fairness, dignity and respect should surely be at the heart of any support policies. But instead of helping people with a disability to live independently, the Tory cut risks putting individuals in real danger of hardship.


Families too have been put in danger of further hardship – on 6th April the UK Government introduced the two child limit to child tax credits. This largely penalises families who are already in work, so has very little to do with reducing the welfare bill. It’s no more than an ideological attack on the lowest earning families. The Child Poverty Action Group estimates that this policy, which can mean a loss of up to £2,800 from a family’s budget, will tip 200,000 children over the edge from ‘just about managing’ into poverty by 2020. Strange, but I seem to have a memory of the Prime Minister stating that these were the families she wished to help … … …


Then, just when you think the lowest point has been reached, along comes “The Rape Clause”. If you can prove to social workers and health professionals that your third or subsequent child was conceived as a result of rape, you’ll get an exemption! Yes, it is a fact; A woman will be denied tax credits for a third or subsequent child unless they can prove they have been raped. This Tory government at Westminster has stooped to a new low, even by their standards.


My Glasgow MP colleague, Alison Thewliss, has been leading the SNP fight against this policy since it was first put forward at Westminster. As well as being horrified that women are being put in this position, it transpires that no guidance has been issued, that there are no details about how this will be assessed, or what training the assessors will have. A House of Lords Committee agrees that the UK Government’s handling of this is “unhelpful”, and “in this case, we think it particularly inappropriate”. Inappropriate indeed, as well as shameful, vile and barbaric.


The leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland is, however, seeking to defend the indefensible. She’s decided that the way to deal with this in Scotland is for the Scottish Government to mitigate yet more Tory cuts!


Ruth Davidson fails to mention that people in Scotland already pay our taxes to the UK Government for a social security system that should be fair and there when we need it. She fails to mention that the Scottish Government has spent nearly £400 million since 2013 in an effort to alleviate Tory cuts to household incomes. She fails to mention that Westminster has been systematically cutting the Scottish Government’s discretionary budget – independent research shows a 9% real terms reduction by 2019-20.


It takes a special kind of twisted logic for the Tory leader in Scotland to call for the Scottish Government to protect families from the vindictive policies of her own Government in Westminster. Strange and desperate stance from a party leader who consistently extols the virtues of being ‘better together’.


As with cuts to the income of those with disability, the imposition of the bedroom tax, housing benefit cuts, this latest abhorrent policy from the Tory Government in Westminster makes it quite clear that they think they can do whatever they want to vulnerable people and get away with it. The Rape Clause confirms that they have abandoned all semblance of any moral compass.

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