Scottish independence: New powers needed to tackle poverty

salmond-paul.jpg
Scotland lacks the economic powers to help get young Scots back in to
a job

Scottish independence: New powers needed to tackle poverty
by Andy Mackie

First Minister Alex Salmond today claimed that the Scottish government is doing all it can to prevent people being forced into receiving emergency food parcels by "Tory cuts”.

Mr Salmond gave the response to a question from Labour MSP Drew Smith during first minister’s questions. The question was prompted by recent figures from Citizens Advice Scotland which revealed that nearly 3,000 people in Scotland received food parcels between April and September.

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The issue, along with recent unemployment figures, highlights friction between Holyrood and Westminster over economic strategy. The SNP government have called on Chancellor George Osborne to borrow more money to invest in job creation, a move which has been echoed by business leaders and even the IMF but is being resisted by Westminster.

A new report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has meanwhile dubbed the coalition government’s economic policy as “suffocating”. The UNCTAD report states that “the chosen policy of unconditional austerity is suffocating the return to sustainable economic growth”.

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson convener of the Scottish Parliament’s finance committee welcomed the report’s findings, he said: “This report is utterly damning of the kind of austerity-agenda which the Tory-led coalition is determined to impose on us.

“It rightly makes clear that it is cutting off economic growth and consequently stifling jobs and investment.

“The simple fact of the matter is that this is the time to invest in shovel-ready projects to get our economy moving again.

“The obstruction from Westminster to doing what is necessary to get our economy growing is nothing less than an outrage and flies in the face of the needs of people in Scotland.”

Lack of economic powers leading to crime, homelessness and other social problems

This follows news that another report from Devo Plus, a campaign group calling for more tax powers for Holyrood, has claimed that the current devolution settlement has failed to deliver for parts of Scotland’s economy.

The report, which will be released later this month, will claim that not enough progress has been made in eight out of sixteen policy areas, including fuel poverty, homelessness and crime, due to a lack of economic powers held by Holyrood. It will also recommend that the bulk of tax powers, including income and corporation tax, should be devolved from Westminster to tackle this.

However, SNP MSP John Wilson, the deputy convener of Holyrood’s economy, energy and tourism committee warned that the powers suggested by Devo Plus would not be enough. He said: “The difficulty for the Devo Plus campaign is that Scotland will never have enough powers short of independence.”

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