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Ministers Accused of Social Security Power Grab

Mark Griffin MSP, Scottish Labour's Spokesperson on Social Security, has branded the Scottish Government's Social Security Bill a ministerial power grab.

In a submission to the Social Security Committee’s call for the evidence on the Bill, Scottish Labour has outlined concerns about the Bill putting too much power into the hands of Scottish Ministers, and failing to guarantee key commitments in law such as:

  • A ban on private sector contractors.
  • Uprating payments in line with inflation.
  • A commitment to a universal winter fuel payment.
  • Ensuring everyone gets the payments to which they are entitled.

The Bill also fails to establish a legal framework for creating new benefits – a tool which could be used to protect WASPI women and reinstate Housing Benefits for 18-21 year olds.

Scottish Labour will seek to amend the Bill when as it progresses in Parliament to strengthen protections for the vulnerable and make the legislation more ambitious.

Mark said:

“Labour is signed up to make the new system a success, which is why we have repeatedly demanded that the delivery of a new social security system is progressed more swiftly. We are concerned that, for all the warm words we have heard so far, progress has been slow and, as a result, Scottish people who are disabled, poor, sick, or elderly, will continue to suffer.

“We also have more fundamental concerns about this Bill. The Scottish Government is seeking, substantial ministerial power, without adequate scrutiny or accountability mechanisms.

“While Scottish Labour shares the aspiration to deliver a fairer system built on the foundations of dignity and respect, we are disappointed that this Bill has failed to deliver what was meant to be landmark legislation.

“As a starting point the Bill fails to take the opportunity to guarantee key commitments – banning private sector companies from delivering disability assessments, preventing winter fuel payments from being means-tested, accepting government has a duty to maximise incomes, and uprating benefits in line with inflation – in legislation.

“On these points, Labour is clear it will seek to amend the Bill to make good these failings.

“The first Social Security Act of the Scottish Parliament should be a watershed moment in the progress of devolution. It should deliver for Scots who are being humiliated and mistreated by a UK Government which has cut £1.1 billion from social security payments, with another £1 billion to come, and for people with disabilities who are suffering “grave and systematic violations” of their rights.

“We want to see rights-based legislation with clear entitlements, that puts money in people’s pockets. This response does not intend to identify all the concerns we have about the Bill, but will set out key areas where we believe Committee is required to take action.”

The submission can be read in full here:

Child Benefit Policy Would Help 78,800 Families in Central Scotland

Scottish Labour’s plan to increase Child Benefit by £240 per year would help 78,800 families in Central Scotland

Scottish Labour’s Social Security Spokesperson and Central Scotland MSP Mark Griffin revealed the figures at a time when child poverty in Scotland has increased by 70,000 in the last five years. 260,000 children now live in poverty across Scotland.

Mr Griffin has called on the Scottish Parliament to use new powers over social security to top up Child Benefit by £240 per year by 2020.

The proposal, which would benefit 78,800 families in Central Scotland, has strong support in opinion polls and across civic Scotland. Mr Griffin has pledged to continue to push the SNP Government to deliver the uprating.

Mark said:

“The number of children living in poverty is on the rise. More than quarter of a million children live in poverty, an increase of 70,000 in the last five years. That is unacceptable that in 21st Century Scotland.

“I want to see an increase in Child Benefit, putting an extra £240 into the pockets of 78,800 families in Central Scotland by the end of the decade.

“This is the sort of anti-austerity policy that Labour will continue to pursue. The Scottish Parliament has the powers to make Scotland the best country in the world to live, work, grow up and grow old in - it is time for those powers to be used properly."

HMRC Economic Impact Assessment Gets Green Light

North Lanarkshire Council will undertake an economic impact assessment on the proposed closure of HMRC Cumbernauld as a result of pressure from Cumbernauld Labour politicians.

Mark Griffin MSP along with Cllrs Gillian Fannan, Tom Fisher and Allan Graham made representations to the council leader on this important issue and have been successful.

Mark Griffin said:

“I am pleased that the leadership of the council has listened and acted.

“The closure of HMRC Cumbernauld will not only seriously impact workers and their families, but the local economy of the town, where the tax office is a major employer.

“1,300 jobs will be relocated out of Cumbernauld, which will unquestionably have an impact on local businesses . I am pleased that following significant pressure from local Labour representatives this assessment will now take place.

A joint statement from Cumbernauld Labour Councillors Gillian Fannan, Tom Fisher and Allan Graham stated:

“We fully support Cumbernauld residents who are concerned about the proposed closure of Cumbernauld HMRC office. The tax office is our town’s biggest employer and is crucial to the local economy. That is why Cumbernauld’s Labour Councillors and Mark Griffin MSP unequivocally supported the call for North Lanarkshire Council to carry out an impact assessment into the planned closure.

“The response from the council on this issue was made by Officers and did not reflect the position of Cumbernauld Labour Councillors.

“We made representations to the political leadership of North Lanarkshire Council that the impact assessment should be carried out as soon as possible and are pleased this will now go ahead.”

Central Scotland in Fracking Firing Line

A staggering four million people in Scotland live in a viable fracking zone, new Scottish Parliament figures have revealed.

3,910,000 people, or 73% of the population, live in areas where companies could bid for licences to engage in fracking activity.

With up to 87% of people in Scotland against fracking, Mark Griffin MSP has once again called on the Scottish Government to end their moratorium and support an outright ban.

Mark said:

"Communities in Central Scotland are fertile ground for fracking activities and therefore in the direct firing line of big companies seeking licences

"The Scottish Government have dragged their feet on fracking for far too long. It is time they take a firm stance.

"I fully support my colleague Claudia Beamish MSP's bid to enforce an outright ban through a Members' Bill.

"People have made their voices heard - they do not want these unnecessary activities taking place on their doorstep; they want to protect the environment, the air we breathe, and the water we drink."

Mark Congratulates Local Pupils

Mark Griffin MSP has congratulated young people across Central Scotland who have received their exam results and paid special tribute to teaching and non-teaching staff in schools for their efforts over the last year.

Mark also encouraged young people who did not receive the grades they would have hoped for to get in touch with Skills Development Scotland's pupil helpline.

Mark said:

"I congratulate all pupils who have worked so hard over the last year to achieve excellent results, and all staff in our schools, both teaching and non-teaching, for the support they have provided to our young people.

"Support and advice is available within schools and at Skills Development Scotland for any young person who has not received the results they would have hoped for.

"The results as a whole across Central Scotland are to be welcomed, and have been achieved against a backdrop of hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to local budgets and the loss of 4,000 teachers in our classrooms.

"Steps must to be taken to build on these results going forward. Rather than making sweeping, unnecessary, structural reforms, which are proving deeply unpopular, the Scottish Government should reverse their cuts to education budgets and focus on tackling poverty, which is right at the heart of the attainment gap."

Any pupil concerned about their grades should contact Skills Development Scotland's Helpline on 0808 100 8000.

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