Tag Archives: welfare

Poverty and inequality – the past, present and future of the Union

Posted by Euan Bennet on 11/03/2014

This video produced by a group of charities fighting poverty has had over 66,000 views since it was uploaded eight days ago. It deserves even wider circulation as it’s a well-made, memorable presentation of just how bad a problem poverty, and in particular child poverty, are in Scotland. The group are called Scotland’s Outlook and they have gathered statistics demonstrating the impact of Westminster’s welfare cuts. Highlights include:

  • 1 in 5 Scottish children is living in poverty (over 200,000 children).
  • 65,000 more children will be pushed into poverty by 2020 than in 2012, as a result of ‘welfare reforms’.
  • HALF of children in poverty (100,000) come from households where at least one parent is in work.

This post is a follow-up to an earlier post where you can find the statistics with supporting evidence of life under the Union.

Let’s examine the evidence to see if we can draw any conclusions about which of a Yes or a No vote is more likely to achieve the aim of reducing/eliminating child poverty.

After a Yes vote

The Scottish Government’s White Paper (pages 190-196) details what can be achieved only with the powers of independence. They propose implementing “transformational” childcare policies which would bring Scotland in line with Denmark and Norway as some of the best in the world. It is estimated that eventually funding 1,140 hours of childcare per year for all children between the ages of 1 and school age will

  • Create 35,000 new jobs
  • Give thousands of parents the choice of returning to work
  • Lead to rewards later in life, since early years are very important for a child’s future development

Evidence that the Scottish Government will achieve this after Independence

  • They have already increased the number of funded childcare hours for all 3 and 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds.
  • They have passed legislation which will provide free school meals for all children in primary 1 to 3.
  • They have set out a clear path (in the White Paper as cited above) of how they want to proceed to the provision of the best childcare in the world.

After a No vote

Pro-Union politicians and commentators have claimed that these childcare objectives can already be achieved with the powers of the devolved Parliament. In particular the Labour party made these claims the day that they voted against free school meals for primary 1-3 children. Such claims are disingenuous, as the following graphic describes succinctly:


This graphic appeared in the Wings article cited above.

Visit the Sealand Gazette for a curated source of similar stories.

Evidence that nothing will change after a No vote

There is more evidence that nothing will change after a No vote: simply paying attention to policy announcements by both the UK Coalition Government parties and the Labour party will tell you that. It can’t be stressed enough that if you are a voter undecided about the referendum: please look at what the Yes campaign and Scottish Government are saying and proposing, and compare that with what the No campaign and UK Government are saying, then make your choice.

To break with the dispassionate voice for a moment because it’s been difficult to sustain it for this long, I have to add that researching and writing this post was both depressing and enraging. For me, the fact that there is ANY poverty and child poverty is an absolute scandal in a country like Scotland which is the 8th richest per head in the world, never mind the levels described above.

Look at the statistics in the Scotland’s Outlook video and website. Look at the difference in the evidence of the behaviour of the two Governments. A No vote is an endorsement of the system that has brought us these levels of poverty and inequality, and a request for more of the same. It is that simple. If you plan to vote No, you’d better have a damn good reason for deeming these conditions acceptable.

‘Shared history’ is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

‘The risks of independence’ is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. In the face of the evidence that is available, that is an insulting argument. How much worse could things actually get?

‘I just don’t like that Salmond/the SNP/one single policy’ – Grow up. It’s about so much more than that. I would like to hear reasons why you hate Salmond so much beyond ‘the media tells me he’s Satan’ though.

Aaaand breathe. Had to let the anger out. That’s better.

Look at the evidence. Weigh up the options. Decide the best option for the future of all of us who live in Scotland.




Posted by Euan Bennet on 23/09/2013

Today the Scottish Government published a paper on their plans for pensions in an independent Scotland. No doubt the media will provide context and mature, sensible analysis of this document and communicate properly to the public that pensions will be safer and better under independence. But just in case they don’t, here is a link to the document itself:

The Scottish Government’s pensions paper

Headline points include:

  • The amount spent in Scotland on ‘social protection’, which includes pensions and other welfare spending, is lower in percentage of public spending and as a share of GDP than in the UK.
  • In 2011-12, social protection accounted for 38% of Scottish public spending, but 42% of UK public spending.
  • In GDP terms, in the same year social protection spending was 14.4% of GDP in Scotland, but 15.9% of GDP in the UK.
  • While all Western nations face the challenge of ageing populations, Scotland is actually projected to have a lower percentage of pensioners and hence a lower number of ‘dependents’ than the UK and many other comparable nations.
  • This is mainly due to lower life expectancy in Scotland, which is something else we’d like to address.

To establish a baseline for considering the likelihood of pensions getting better or worse, we must first recognise that the UK state pension is the second worst for both men and women of all EU member states. It is estimated that 13.2 million people of working age are not saving adequately for their future.

It’s a long and quite boring report, but helpfully Annex A (page 103) summarises the proposals and compares them to the status quo. There are 30 such proposals, all of which say some variation of “will stay the same or get better” (for example by proposing the “Triple Lock” – pensions rise by whichever is highest out of average wage, inflation, or 2.5% – until 2020 in the first instance where Westminster has only guaranteed it until 2015). Don’t just take my word for it though – take a moment to see for yourself! I would encourage anyone who is concerned about the pensions situation after independence to at least look at the preamble and Chapter 1, and Annex A.


Update 03/10/2013: Wings over Scotland have posted an image of Annex A to save wading through 100-odd pages to get to the interesting bit.