DUNDEE East MSP Stewart Hosie has spoken out about what he describes as the bewildering and alarming changes to welfare benefits and pensions.
He explained: “The public are increasingly bewildered and alarmed about the speed of change coming from Westminster on welfare benefits and pensions. All these changes are causing real anxiety to many and are being imposed on Scotland which mostly didn’t support this government’s agenda.
“Of course we are long used to the effects of the democratic deficit where we go to the polls in Scotland to support the social objectives broadly shared among Scottish political parties.
“Now, there’s nothing new in Westminster imposing budget cuts, benefits cuts, VAT increases, post office privatisation and billions wasted on Trident despite Scotland’s MPs voting against those issues but what is new is the willingness of the coalition to roll back the frontiers of the welfare state and the speed with which it is taking place.”
And the MP has singled out disability living allowance and child benefit as benefits which have changed, meaning people lose out.
He said: “Last year, I was aware of the wave of anger and anxiety arising from proposed changes to disability living allowance and the anxiety that is being caused by the new work capability assessments system.
“The Commons passed the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill at its second reading.
“Many benefits received by workers, jobseekers, carers and disabled people are to be capped at 1 per cent per annum, which has the effect of a cumulative 4 per cent real-terms cuts to some of the poorest working people in society.
“Then we had the changes to child benefit taking effect which have inequity built-in to the system.
“Some households can earn a combined total of £98,000 without losing any entitlement to child benefit while families with only one earner on a total income of £60,000 lose out completely. “The UK Government defends the new rules on the basis of avoiding costly means-testing on household income.
“But it is clear that these new rules are not equitable because they are based on the higher earner’s wage, not on combined income.
“It is just one more example of the UK Government’s determination to create a less equal society and provide less support for hard-working families.
“Now the headlines are full of claim and counter-claim on who will benefit and who will lose out on the long-awaited proposed new pension rules.
“The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has been highly critical of the proposals for a new flat rate state pension. “The IFS state that those who have children and took time out of their contributions would be worse off.
“The reform will not increase pension accrual for part time workers and women who take time out to care for children.
“In fact, in common with almost everyone else, these groups may end up with a lower pension at the state pension age under the new system than they would do under the current system.
“In the long run workers who take time off for child care, principally women, and part time workers, will be worse of with these proposals.
“The independent IFS analysis makes it clear that the main effect of these reforms will be to reduce pensions for the vast majority of people in the long-term. “On top of the cuts already put in place for public sector pensions, the child benefit changes hitting some families by up to £1,300 a year and the impact of serious cutbacks in support for vulnerable people the UK Government is cutting back on support people need in difficult times.”
He concluded: “People in Scotland have an alternative.
“With a yes vote in next year’s referendum we could set pensions policy and a fairer Scottish welfare benefits system in the best interests of the people of Scotland, based on the national consensus in Scotland which also supports policies such as free care for the elderly, free prescriptions and free education.
“After 2014 there are two possible outcomes. Continuing with progressive policies supported by the vast majority of Scottish voters or more and deeper cuts from London.”