Allan Dorans: What has the SNP done for us? Here are seven ways we’ve tackled inequality

Only the SNP will put its left foot forward for the people of Scotland, writes the Scottish National Party MP.

“Thousands of families of disabled children in Scotland have received an additional £200 to help heat their homes this winter. More than 13,000 families of a disabled child, on the highest rate care component of Disability Living Allowance for Children, have had a Child Winter Heating Assistance payment. These payments were made automatically using information provided by the Department for Work and Pensions.”

This update in December 2020, on an initiative by the SNP administration, is revealing. It is only one of a series of attempts, within the constraints of the devolution settlement, to counter the austerity imposed on the people of Scotland by successive Conservative governments, effectively unopposed by the Labour Party, which likes to style itself ‘leftist’ and which spends much of its efforts carping at the supposed failures of the SNP. 

Particularly revealing, also, is the evidence here of a desire and an actual strategy, to make the process of meeting the needs of the vulnerable a dignified one based on a system that enables automatic payment. Contrast that with the horrors of outsourced assessments of disability payments preferred by the UK Government.

My purpose here is to offer facts showing that successive SNP administrations have acted in the interests of the poor and the vulnerable and that the SNP is Scotland’s party of the left.

More than indy

Few in the SNP want independence only for its own sake but do so for a wide range of very good reasons, from protecting our NHS, through to more progressive taxation policies and on to a less aggressive foreign policy.

What Scotland can be, not what it has been, is what matters and greater social justice and equality must be at the heart of our ambitions for the future.

There can be no social justice without greater equality – and that’s not just a belief, it’s science too.

In 2009, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, two English researchers, wrote one of the most important books of recent times – The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

They found: “For each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries.”

In Europe, the UK is the most unequal and is becoming more so after the achievements in a period of improvement from 1945 to 1979 were then eroded by successive Conservative and Labour governments.

Scotland suffers

Scotland has not escaped this fate. Compared to the South of England, it has suffered more greatly. Tied to Westminster policies, we have seen the same problems identified by Pickett and Wilkinson get even worse.

Devolution, however, especially in the last decade or so, has created opportunities to address some of Scotland’s injustices and inequalities and we’ve had some positive effects. 

Perhaps best known was action to redress one of the UK Government’s most notable and most revealing policy decisions. In 2013, the UK Government limited Housing Benefit and the housing element of Universal Credit for working-age council or housing association tenants if they were considered to be under-occupying their homes. This became known as the ‘bedroom tax’ and the Scottish Government fully mitigated it, spending £52 million per year.

Real action

Since then, there have been many more attempts to counter the instinctive tendency of a Conservative government to punish the poor.

  1. The Scottish Child Payment means that low-income families with a child under six will be able to apply for £10 per child, per week – equivalent to £520 per year. There are no limits on the number of eligible children supported by Scottish Child Payment.
  1. Scotland has the highest proportion of employees being paid at least the real Living Wage of all four UK nations – 80.6%, ahead of England 77.1%, Wales 74.0% and NI 72.3% and the UK 77.2%.
  2. Scotland has the smallest gap between median pay for the disabled and non-disabled. This is not the result of median wages for the non-disabled in Scotland being particularly low as Scotland has the highest median pay outside of the South of England and London.
  3. Only Scotland and Wales pay the living wage to all NHS employees and Scotland was first to pay the living wage to all public-sector employees. Recent consultation on taxation suggests that this group will also be protected from any tax increases.
  4. Scottish care workers have been receiving the Living Wage of £8.45 per hour since October 2016 and will now [unlike in rUK] receive the same rate for all ‘sleepover hours worked. This will make a big difference to around 40 000 workers. Most are women.
  5. In 2019, the United Nations report on ‘Workhouse Britain’ noted that Scotland was spending ‘£125 million per year to protect people from the worst impacts of austerity and unlike the UK Government provided funds for emergencies and hardships.’
  6. Also, in 2019, the funeral support payment was introduced meeting burial or cremation costs with a flat rate £700. 

The SNP has consistently shown that it is a party of the people, working to make Scotland a fairer and more equal country.

The only way we will fully achieve this is by becoming an independent country adopting forward-looking, inclusive ambitious political policies. Let’s put that left foot forward for the people of Scotland.

Allan Dorans is the Scottish National Party MP for Ayr, Carrick and is a Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs.

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