We are fighting poverty with ‘one arm tied behind our back’, SNP ministers

The Scottish Government is fighting poverty with “one arm tied behind our back”, according to two ministers.

Public health minister, Maree Todd, said the Scottish Government is forced to counter policies made by Westminster, while UK Government cuts negate Scottish Government choices.

In September, a £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit that was put in place as a result of the pandemic was cut, negating the £10 Scottish Child Payment – which will double to £20 from April.

Ms Todd (pictured) told the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee: “If I’m honest, I think we’re doing a lot.

“We’re increasing the amount of money that people have in their pockets which I think is a vitally important way to tackle health inequalities.”

She added: “I go back to the challenge of tackling these issues with one hand tied behind your back or taking one step forward in Scotland and the UK Government forces us to take a step back.

“The frustration that causes me, as someone who is absolutely passionate and determined to improve that, is a difficult one to bare, frankly.

“We are doing a great deal of work in Scotland, but that £20 child payment will be negated by the decrease of £20 in Universal Credit.

“We’re doing lots of work to support insulation of homes and tackle fuel poverty, but the responsibility for fuel pricing and VAT, which would make a real difference in fuel poverty, lies with Westminster.

“And so far, our pleas to tackle that issue (have) fallen on deaf ears.”

In recent years, the Scottish Government has chosen to mitigate the so-called bedroom tax, which limited the amount of rent tenants could claim housing benefit for, through discretionary housing payments.

In the draft budget for 2022-23, the Scottish Government proposed £80.2 million for discretionary housing payments.

In the same meeting, mental health minister, Kevin Stewart, said poverty was a major driver of poor mental and physical wellbeing.

“We can’t get over the fact that much of the powers here still rest with the UK Government,” he said.

“As Maree has said, we’ve a situation where we’re doing our level best to mitigate some of the policy decisions from down south.”

He added: “While we have mitigated the likes of the bedroom tax, they still have the welfare cap.

“I think we have got to recognise that, while we will do everything that we possibly can in these regards, it would be much more helpful if these welfare policies that have been enacted by the UK Government we got rid of, because they have a major impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of so many folks in our country.”

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