Scotland bill will “make things worse for the poor”

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The Scotland bill proposes new powers for the Scottish Parliament

New powers process has not listened to disadvantaged communities, says charity chief

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29th May 2015 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

The new bill pledging more powers to Scotland is a dangerous “fudge” which will harm the poor.

That’s the view of a leading figure in the country’s third sector, who said the legislation should be torn up and the process started again.

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said the voice of the poorest communities must be heard.

The creation of a Scotland bill was included in Wednesday’s Queen’s speech and was published on Thursday.

It is supposed to implement the findings of the cross-party Smith Commission into further powers for Scotland, which was set up following promises made by pro-union parties prior to last year’s referendum on Scottish independence.

Trying to create a half-way house on welfare will only make matters worse for people who need support

Its key elements include some new welfare powers, the ability to set the rules over some benefits for carers, the disabled and the elderly and some control over Universal Credit payments.

However, Sime said that rather than making things better for Scotland’s most disadvantaged, it could, in fact, compound inequality.

He said: “At first reading the newly published Scotland bill is another devolution fudge which will be of no help to the people of Scotland.

“In particular, trying to create a half-way house on welfare will only make matters worse for people who need support.

“The draft bill even puts new limits on the capacity of the Scottish Government to mitigate the impact of welfare reform.”

Sime insisted the whole process needs to be halted and re-started, this time taking into account people with real knowledge of poverty and the welfare system.

He said: “The interests of our poorest communities should come first but they have been excluded from this conversation, so SCVO recommends that both governments should pause and listen before ploughing ahead with another piece of legislation which will turn out to be unfit for purpose. Devolution should not be just a political football.

“SCVO will work with its members and with wider civil society to put a stop to this parliamentary circus until there has been genuine engagement with citizens about how their needs can best be met.

“We will give priority to the views of people who have first-hand experience of the welfare system and we invite the Secretary of State to join us in that conversation.”

Sime is not alone in his criticism of the Scotland bill – first minister Nicola Sturgeon said it falls short in “almost every way”.

She said it does not even deliver the limited extra powers proposed by the Smith Commission, telling the Scottish Parliament: "The bill doesn't contain the full welfare powers recommended by the Smith Commission and in some key powers it retains, unbelievably in my view, given the amount of concern that was expressed about this, it retains a veto for the UK government on key policy areas.

"So, for example, if this parliament wants to abolish the bedroom tax, as I hope we do, the UK government would still have a right of veto over whether we could do it or not. Now I'm sorry, but that is not devolution."

If the bill, if it passes through the parliamentary process unimpeded, could become law early next year, ahead of the Holyrood elections in May 2016.

2nd June 2015 by Dejected member

Once again scvo's boss shows little sign of impartiality. Maybe he should take a leafout of his own book and spend more time listenering to his organisations membership then allowing his personal pro SNP opinions stance to come through. This is quite frankly a disgrace and the organisation should think more carefully about what individuals in its organisation comment on. You are a representative organisation and not a political one.