Westminster Rolls Up Social Security Safety Net

Our social security system was established to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable in our society, but we are now seeing folk across our country fall further into poverty and despair as that safety net is being removed by the ConDem coalition at Westminster.

In the past year there has been an 1,103% rise in children using Trussell Trust foodbanks in Scotland, an estimated 100,000 more children will be pushed into poverty in our country by 2020 and disabled people are facing an unprecedented attack on their freedom with Westminster’s abolition of the Independent Living Fund.

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Carmichael has stated that the welfare system is “fantastic”, which I am quite sure is not a description that would be used by those that are forced to use foodbanks or by those disabled folk who have seen their independence disappear as their benefits have been slashed.

The ConDems have stated that they will cut the welfare budget by a further £12 billion in the next spending round and the Labour response to this is to pledge that they will match Tory spending plans if they were ever to gain power. It would be fair to say that all three major UK parties are planning to roll up that social security safety net and to allow the most vulnerable in our society to plummet into the abyss of poverty and despair.

The Scottish Government has reacted by trying to mitigate the excesses of Westminster social security cuts by establishing the council tax reduction scheme, providing funding to cover Bedroom Tax costs, giving an additional £1 million to foodbanks and by setting up the Scottish Independent Living Fund. However, these worthy measures cannot deal with the worst excesses of Westminster welfare reform and that is why I believe that the Scottish Parliament must have the power and the resources to deal with welfare.

The Tories, Liberals and Labour at Westminster may want to roll up that social security safety net, but in my opinion the people of Scotland want to see the social protection that it provides for our most vulnerable citizens to remain in place.

I believe that the only way to retain the safety net and to create a fairer society is for the people of Scotland to vote Yes on the 18th September.

STEWART CONDEMNS ZERO HOURS CONTRACT MOVE

SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, Kevin Stewart has condemned the Westminster Government’s announcement that unemployed people face losing their benefits for three months or more if they refuse to take jobs with zero hours contracts. Commenting on this decision Mr Stewart said:

“This is a despicable decision, which legitimises and encourages employers who currently operate a zero hours contract regime and leaves job seekers with the Russian roulette choice of losing your benefits or taking a job which may lead to earning little or no pay.

“This regressive policy will lead to an increase in poverty and destitution and this daft idea shows that employment and welfare issues should be in the hands of an independent Scottish Parliament that has the powers to eradicate unfair employment practices and create fairer welfare policies.”

-Ends

A copy of Kevin’s motion to the Scottish Parliament can be found below:-

Motion Number: S4M-09952
Lodged By: Kevin Stewart
Date Lodged: 06/05/2014

Title: UK Government and Zero-hours Contracts

Motion Text:
That the Parliament condemns the UK Government for the announcement that, under the new universal credit system, unemployed people face losing their benefits for three months or more if they refuse to take jobs with so-called zero-hours contracts; believes that this regressive step will force even more people into poverty and legitimises the use of zero-hours contracts by employers; understands that the Scottish Government has been looking at options to tackle the issue of zero-hours contracts in its limited powers, and hopes that all employment and welfare powers will soon be in the hands of an independent Scottish Parliament.

Deluded, Deranged, Dysfunctional?

Aberdeen has a huge amount going for it with a booming economy, largely untouched by the recession, low unemployment and of course a cup-winning football  team. However, wherever I go at the moment the conversation always turns to the antics of Aberdeen’s Labour-led council.

In the past few weeks I’ve been asked by folk from across the country about the reports that have appeared in the media on an almost daily basis. The questions posed and comments made include:-

“Are they mad?”

“Who’s in charge?”

“I used to think my own council was bad, but….”

I could go on.  The main sentiment expressed has been sympathy for the people of Aberdeen for having to put up with the almost daily shenanigans, which are damaging the reputation of our city.

I have just watched the council leader on TV catch-up claiming that  all is well and that his administration has a ‘model’ working relationship with the council’s top staff. Why then have they lost  directors of social work, corporate governance and economic development and now a chief executive since they assumed office in May 2012?  Why is it that many other staff have chosen to go too?

The fact that the administration started off its term by increasing the pay of senior councillors by 5%, when staff were facing a pay freeze, with a leader that evicted a member of staff from his office so he could purloin it for himself should have warned us of what was to come.

Since then we have had the banning of Scottish Government Ministers from council buildings,  the controversial council tax  ‘no’ letter and  administration leaders voting against  getting an extra £7.5 million for our city at CoSLA on more than one occasion.

The administration’s self-made crisis after crisis  is depressing for Aberdonians, many of whom are facing the same questions about their council as have been posed to me  over these past  few weeks.

I leave the last  few words to a man from the Borders who asked:-

“Are they deluded, deranged, dysfunctional or is it all three?”

 

 

 

 

Aberdeen Denied Access To Over £352 million

Aberdeen Denied Access To Over £352 million

According to statistics released today, Scotland would have been better off by £1,600 for every man woman and child over the past five years.  The 2012-13 Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report, which estimates levels of tax and spending in Scotland, demonstrates that, including a geographical share of North Sea oil and gas, tax revenues in Scotland were £800 higher per head compared to the UK in 2012-13.

In Aberdeen the £1,600 would amount to over £352 million extra. Imagine the difference that could make to our people and our city.

With a Yes vote this year, our finances will be used to benefit people in Aberdeen and in Scotland rather than the Treasury in Westminster.

Bon Accord – Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again?

Many will recognise Aberdeen’s Bon Accord motto and the Bon Accord toast that I have used in the title of this blog. Aberdonians have always welcomed visitors from near and far and has been hailed for their hospitality. Unfortunately, over the past week attitudes have changed with the council trying to ban Scottish Government Ministers from council buildings, parks and other public assets. How can this be?

Aberdeen’s seat of power is the Town House, known by Aberdonian’s as the Toon’s Hoose – the House belonging to the Town and its people. Aberdonians rightly see all of the city’s parks and other assets as belonging to them and who can argue with that? Unfortunately, Aberdeen’s Labour-led council sees things differently and instead of acting as the custodians of the toon’s assets, they seem to think they own them and can do as they please.

Spats between politicians are not unusual, but banning your opponents is not something that we are used to in Aberdeen or in Scotland as a whole and if this ban were to be allowed who would be barred next? Are local MSPs, elements of the press, pressure groups or ‘disgruntled’ members of the public the next to face exclusion from their own public buildings and open spaces? I sincerely hope not, but as we all know one thing often leads to another in this life if bad decisions remain unchallenged.

I would appeal to the Labour leadership in Aberdeen to show a bit of gumption and to remember the Bon Accord motto and toast and  express that they are happy to meet Ministers in the city as has always been the case before. If they don’t the city will be judged by many who have been sorry to part previously as being somewhat petty and they may not be so happy to meet again.

I sincerely hope that common sense will prevail and that the city’s reputation can be restored.

 

Aberdeen – Labour’s Forgotten City

For the third time yesterday Aberdeen City Council’s  Labour leadership failed to secure  an extra £7.5 million of funding  for our city at CoSLA.

Adjustments to the funding formula because of things like population change are normally agreed on the nod, but it seems that the Labour Party are trying to protect their own interests in other parts of the country, so this time there has been three  votes on the issue.

I’m reliably informed that Cllr Willie Young, who normally cannot keep his tongue still , sat in silence throughout yesterday’s meeting . He put party interest before the people of Aberdeen, even though he knew there were 7.5 million reasons for him to ignore his central belt leaders.

Talking of leaders, where was Barney Crockett? Why was he as council leader not at the meeting, which is billed as the Leaders’ Meeting? Did Willie , who some see as the power behind the throne, insist on going or is Barney away on another junket funded by the council tax payers? Council tax payers who have just been fleeced out of £7.5 million!

 

Dennis Robertson and Eating Disorder Awareness Week

My friend, Dennis Robertson MSP, who represents West Aberdeenshire has been campaigning to make people aware of eating disorders ever since he was elected to serve in the Scottish Parliament.

Sadly, Dennis, his wife Ann and daughter Fiona have suffered personally as Dennis’ daughter Caroline died three years ago after losing her fight with an eating disorder.

This week Dennis secured a Members’ Debate about Eating Disorder Awareness Week, has invited many campaigning organisations and sufferers to discuss issues with MSPs and tomorrow a major conference will be held in Parliament.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kathryn Kerr, a young Ambassador for beat (Beating Eating Disorders). Kathryn, who suffered from anorexia told me that we do not blame someone for having cancer, so why do we blame folk who have eating disorders? Kathryn’s analysis is spot on as  many people still treat folk with mental health problems so differently from people with physical illnesses. This must change.

The efforts of Dennis and all of the contributors to this week’s events in Parliament will hopefully help bring about that change and they are all to be commended for their efforts.

ABC - Anorexia & Bulimia Care Symbol
ABC – Anorexia & Bulimia Care Symbol
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