Smith: look at what you could have won…

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Jim Bowen... or Lord Smith?

​Smith Commission omissions felt like being handed the heated rollers rather than the speedboat on Bullseye

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28th November 2014 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

Third sector groups have called the Smith Commission’s failure to deliver anything but piecemeal devolution of welfare a missed opportunity – but just how missed is only now becoming clear.

It would appear that Holyrood was in line for much more extensive powers in this area – including the ability to vary Universal Credit.

However, this was struck out at the last minute, cooling to tepid the broth of powers we were presented with.

A draft set of proposals – from 11am on Tuesday – contained much more radical welfare proposals than those dished up on Thursday.

All the key elements of universal credit – a rolling together of six benefits which has been heavily criticised by anti-poverty campaigners – were to have been given to Holyrood.

It’s like waking up on Christmas Day to find your mum and dad’s bought you Boba Fett’s ship – and then discovering they were going to get you an AT-AT, but changed their minds.

This would have allowed MSPs to effectively begin the construction of a genuinely Scottish welfare system, providing a powerful cushion against the worst effects of Westminster austerity.

As Jim Bowen used to say on Bullseye: look at what you could have won.

Seeing what was struck from the report so late on, it feels like Scotland has been handed the heated rollers or the hostess trolley rather than the keys to the speedboat.

Some benefits, including disability living allowance, attendance allowance and carer's allowance, will be devolved. Some new benefits can be created and others topped up.

The one aspect of universal credit which Holyrood will have a say over is in housing policy – enabling politicians to scrap the under-occupancy charge, abolishing the hated bedroom tax.

This is welcome – but pales absolutely when you look at what might have been.

It’s like waking up on Christmas Day to find your mum and dad’s bought you Boba Fett’s ship – and then discovering on Boxing Day that they were going to get you an AT-AT, but they changed their minds.

Only people of a certain age will get that – but believe me, it’s a good analogy.

The draft recommendations included a paragraph which stated: "The Scottish Parliament will have the power to vary the personal allowance, the carer element, the child element, including the disabled child addition, the childcare costs element, the limited capability for work and work-related element and work allowance of UC" and also made reference to devolving "Child Benefit & Guardian's Allowance and Maternity Allowance" and "the operations of Jobcentre Plus in Scotland, including the responsibility for designing and implementing the policies it applies".

By Thursday, all this was gone. Coincidentally or not (and I suspect not though sources have denied any interference) they seem to have been zapped at around the same time the UK Tory/LibDem cabinet was being briefed on Smith.

So, after all the huffing and puffing, this is what the new Scotland looks like: not that much different.

To paraphrase Jim Bowen (again): look at what you’ve still got to win.

29th November 2014 by Kathleen and Geoff Byrom

Well,well, well. What do you people actually do for a living? The world doesn't revolve round the benefit system, food banks and the disabled. Did you do anything about the ninety 'starving' children, looking to be fed from Maryhill food bank? Did the local MP, the local MSP, Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP, Social Services, Save the Children and a group for Child action on poverty.........no. How do I know, because I was horrified that 'starving' children were living in Glasgow, and not given further support, so I contacted the aforementioned. Guess what, the blame lay with the Westminster Government and their austerity measures. Social services had no referrals. What, did that headline not ring alarm bells with charities and organisations across Scotland. Oh, we'll blame Westminster, what a crowd pleaser. Still it's going on. What about the patients in our Scottish Government run NHS, who, reportably have died from starvation, including children? Where are the charities now? Before you pigeonhole me into someone who doesn't support charities or people with disabilities, I do. I have lived and cared for a disabled brother. Also seen the abject poverty in the squatter camps in Johannesburg in South Africa. The people who work tirelessly to feed clothe and educate the children are inspirational. They do all this by donations, and not from money given by the South African government. Please, stop the blame game. Its beginning to sound like a broken record. I know you have your own agenda, but it's beginning to get really tiresome. We just want to get on with our lives.Can I mention my local MSP Mr. Jamie Hepburn who listened to our concerns, and all correspondence was answered. I did not agree with all of his responses, but I found him courteous and willing to listen.