New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Politics
22 March 2017updated 08 Sep 2021 7:36am

Scottish independence would hit the poorest the hardest

Leaving the UK would mean huge cuts to public services

By Mark Griffin

Sometimes, what you don’t say is more revealing that what you do say.

When Nicola Sturgeon addressed SNP conference, we knew independence would be front and centre of her comments.

The First Minister is a nationalist. What drove her into politics was independence, not social justice.

But even then, it was a staggering oversight for the First Minister not to mention poverty in her keynote address once.

The speech came just days after new figures showed over a quarter of a million children in Scotland living in poverty, an increase of 40,000 on her watch.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

That tells you everything you need to know about her priorities. She would rather divide our country with the arguments of the past, than get on with tackling the problems Scotland faces.

Another reason may be, grimly, more political – there is now no credible argument for independence ending austerity.

The paper-thin argument the nationalists tried to sell to the poorest in 2014 has been exposed as false hope.

The numbers are clear – leaving the UK would mean huge cuts to public services, which would hit the poorest hardest.

So the best way to make Scotland fairer is to stay in the UK and use the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

That’s why last month Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale set out our plan to use the new powers of our parliament to boost Child Benefit by an extra £240 per year by the end of the decade.

This move would lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty, and put money back into the pockets of families who have seen incomes flatline under the SNP.

Booting the private sector – that has delivered cruel and inhumane disability benefit assessments – out of the social security system is another. That’s why we will amend the forthcoming Social Security Bill to ensure, in law, that the private contractors are removed from the system

Rather than the system working against Scots, we want to see it work for people. That’s why we want a legal duty that the government ensures that everyone gets the benefits they are entitled to. Scots miss out on £2bn worth of social security payments a year. Getting that cash to families could make a huge difference to thousands.

When Scotland voted to stay in the UK in 2014 the powers we got over the benefits system should have meant we can make different decisions than the Tories.

Rather than more division, we’d like to work with the SNP to take those different decisions.

Mark Griffin is Scottish Labour’s social security spokesman

Content from our partners
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change
Tackling the UK's biggest health challenges