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Barrie Cunning: Scottish Government could make up the Universal Credit shortfall if it wanted

JUST over two weeks ago the Universal Credit uplift, which was designed to support and help families and people across the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, was withdrawn.

Irrespective of where you find yourself politically, I’m sure we can all agree that this was the wrong decision for any government to take. The implications of this policy decision will result in thousands of families across Scotland being plunged unnecessarily into poverty and hardship, especially at a time when the cost of living is on the rise, which will put thousands of families under intense pressure as they try to keep their heads above water and make ends meet.

One of the key themes that the Scottish Government often talks about is that of a wellbeing economy – putting people at the heart of an economy that promotes good mental wellbeing. But we all know that poverty and sustained hardship is one of the main reasons for someone having poor mental health. Unless action is taken by the Scottish Government now its foreseeable that this will only get worse.

Poverty knows no boundaries or borders and whether it be your constituency in the south side of Glasgow or any other constituency in Scotland, the fact of the matter is that 176,000 people in Scotland will be affected by this decision. As a country I know we can be better than this and now is the time for the government of Scotland to show the people that they really are on their side by investing in today for a better tomorrow.

A new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has warned that the Scottish Government is set to miss their interim child poverty targets by at least 4 percentage points, leaving up to 210,000 children in poverty. JRF has also made clear that it is the Scottish Government’s responsibility to reduce poverty in Scotland, and it is not enough to continue to push the blame on the UK Government.

Poverty is the root cause of most of the societal problems that exist and there should be a renewed focus on how best to tackle this.

The first priority of any government should be to mitigate the effects that these cuts will have on the most vulnerable in our society. The SNP must use the powers that they have at their disposal as opposed to arguing for more powers.

It really is as simple as that. Use the devolved social security powers that are at the disposal of the Scottish Parliament to take a different path to the cruel and callous cuts of the Tory government.

It’s an opportunity to transform lives, by boosting the winter fuel payment, quadrupling the Scottish Child Payment, bringing in a minimum income guarantee and get us set on a real path to tackle and end poverty forever.

The reality is that it is within the gift of the Scottish Government to change the fortunes of those people and families who will be affected by this barbaric cut.

Week in week out we are told how the Scottish Government are standing up for the people of Scotland, how they are a more caring, compassionate, and understanding government but now what is needed is action as words alone will not cushion the blow that many families will feel in the weeks that lie ahead.

For me this issue transcends party politics, this is about people, this is about families and it’s about ensuring that they are looked after. But ultimately this is about doing the right thing.

Undoubtedly, the opportunity to serve the people of Scotland and being in government is an enormous privilege and honour and responsibility but being in government is more than occupying the seat of power, it’s more than slogans and soundbites.

In short, what is needed is a government that will use the powers at their disposal to invest in the people of Scotland today for a better tomorrow.

Barrie Cunning is the managing director of Pentland Communications and a former Scottish Labour Parliamentary candidate for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.



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