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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.

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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.

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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