On Wednesday we had another session of Scottish Questions.
As the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland I get three questions and used 2 of them to press the Government on the Scotland Bill and the consequences of the budget on Scotland.
You can see the questions here:
I also asked about why the Government will not agree with the Church of Scotland and do a full inquiry into the way the sanctions regime operates in Scotland:
Video for sanctions regime question:
Governments are defined by actions, not words, and in last week’s Budget, the emptiness of the Tories’ rhetoric was left brutally exposed. By imposing punitive cuts on the tax credits relied on by thousands of hard working families across Scotland, Chancellor George Osborne showed his disdain for the very people he purports to stand for. Labour invented the tax credit system as a safety net for working people, supplementing low wages in order to help struggling families make ends meet. Now the Tories are intent on tearing holes in that safety net – holes through which many families will tumble, exacerbating the “substantial rise of in-work poverty” identified by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Research I commissioned from the House of Commons Library shows that the Tories’ attack on tax credits will leave an average Scottish family of two adults working full time on the Minimum Wage, with two children, £1800 a year worse off.
Faced with such an alarming figure, it’s no wonder that a host of organisations have lined up to condemn this Budget, including the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, which said that it “has the potential to be just as damaging as the Bedroom Tax.” In light of this threat, it is now more important than ever that we amend the Scotland Bill to ensure that Scottish families are not left exposed by the Tories’ ideological assault on the Welfare State.
So far, Labour has tabled over 80 amendments to the Scotland Bill – more than all the other parties put together – including 34 amendments to the welfare provisions in the Bill. As yet, the Government has not seen fit to accept any of our amendments, but I have not given up hope. Indeed, unlike the SNP, who are desperate to be disappointed by the Bill and have wasted hours pontificating about what they would do with powers they don’t have and won’t get, I am now more determined than ever to extract the best possible deal for Scotland.
That’s why, during this week’s Scottish Questions, I challenged the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, to accept Labour’s proposals to devolve to Scotland total autonomy to create new benefits. This would, in effect, allow us to design our own welfare system, crafted to suit the needs and requirements of the Scottish people. It would also allow us to offset the worst excesses of the Tory Government, such as those included within the Budget.
But Labour can’t force this through on our own. The Secretary of State said he will “reflect on amendments to the Bill which are in the best interests of people in Scotland” – an encouraging response. However, if we are to convince the Government to accept our amendment, I will need the support of other parties, including the SNP. It’s time they ditched the politics of grievance, and worked with me to ensure that the Scottish Parliament gets the powers it needs to enhance the lives of the Scottish people.