Striking fear in the hearts of Unionists
There are some folk, mainly Labour types, who have a visceral hatred of the Scottish National Party. I have heard all kinds of characterizations of the SNP and all of them are wrong. “Well, the SNP are a nationalist party and nationalism is bad” is one such complaint but is all nationalism bad? Isn’t there such a thing as left-wing nationalism? Then there were the many liberation movements in the former colonies. Weren’t they nationalist and left-wing? I’ve also heard people characterize the SNP as “Nazis” (melodramatic) or as the “Scottish version of UKIP” (absurd). Hysterical, hyperbolic and delusional. But whoever claimed Unionists were rational? They will do anything to cling onto the leaky boat that is the Union.
The SNP was formed in 1934 through a merger of two parties: the larger centre-left National Party of Scotland and the smaller centre-right Scottish Party…
View original post 1,387 more words
The SNP manifesto, published yesterday, proposes a number of pro-claimant policies that set it apart from any of the main parties at Westminster.
The SNP’s benefits pledges include:
- increases of at least the cost of living in welfare benefits
- halting the roll out of both Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Universal Credit
- reversing the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with PIP
- people already supported by the Independent Living Fund will continue to be supported.
- an urgent review of the system of assessments for disability benefits.
- increasing the universal credit work allowance, to boost to the incomes of people moving into work
- overhauling the Work Capability Assessment.
- urgently reviewing the conditionality and sanctions regime, taking particular account of the needs of people with mental health issues. and recognising that the removal of cash benefits should be a last, rather than a first, resort.
- Increasing Carers’ Allowance so that it matches Jobseekers’ Allowance.
- not supporting attempts to restrict housing benefit for 18 to 21 year olds
- stop war disablement pension being treated as income in the assessment of entitlement to other benefits.
It seems likely that there will be many sick and disabled claimants south of the border who will read these policies and regret that they don’t have the opportunity to vote SNP.
Source – Benefits & Work, 21 Apr 2015
A local authority is considering raising council tax as it reaches the ‘end of the line’ in cutbacks to office jobs.
The leader of South Tyneside Council, Iain Malcolm, has said he is considering raising council tax for the first time since 2011 after accepting the Government’s freeze deal for four years in a row.
He joins Newcastle City Council in publicly declaring that a council tax rise may be on the horizon if fellow councillors vote for the change in setting their 2015-16 budgets in March.
The Labour leader, said: “I can’t give a guarantee that council tax won’t be increased in the next financial year.
“We are at the end of the line in finding these back office savings. Now we are looking at how we can find these front line services in new innovative ways. We’ve done asset transfers. We will have to have further talks with councils to see who might take the lead in certain areas.”
However he said any potential rise would fall short of 2% – the figure which the Government has said would trigger a referendum with the public.
He said: “We couldn’t afford a referendum and no council has gone for a referendum because you wouldn’t win. No one would vote for that, people would just vote no. I can’t rule out an increase because we are now at that stage.”
> But if they did vote no, surely that’s the will of the people you’re supposed to serve ? Just saying…
So far South Tyneside Council has had to make more than £100m in cutbacks to their budget, and must save a further £22m in the financial year 2015-16.
Councillor Malcolm said it is now time to turn to Holyrood in Scotland for support in gaining a fairer local government finance deal for the North East of England as much as Westminster.
He said: “What opportunities are there by looking northwards for the economy, transport and infrastructure?
“We need to have a conversation with Scotland, not just with Westminster and Whitehall. Whoever wins the election, I would expect them to do a root and branch reform of local government finance. No one really understands the formula and its open to widescale manipulation by ministers to make sure it goes to areas where they want it to go.”
He said previous talks on funding the dualling of the A1 with former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond had been less than fruitful but that it was important to ensure communications with Scotland are maintained as the country undergoes further devolution.
Source – Shields Gazette, 06 Jan 2015
SNP politician Christine Grahame’s proposal to contest the Berwick constituency at next year’s General Election has been ruled out.
Ms Grahame, who represents Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale in the Scottish Parliament, had previously expressed her willingness to be a candidate in the English seat currently held by long-serving Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith.
She felt it would secure the SNP leadership a place in any UK-wide television debates to be screened in the run-up to May. That way the SNP could claim to be standing right across the UK because it would have candidates in England as well as Scotland.
However, the idea has been rejected by the SNP executive.
Ms Grahame said:
“I am disappointed but not surprised that the SNP’s governing body has rejected my offer. I, of course, accept the ruling.”
The idea sparked debate among voters on both sides of the border.
The proposal certainly captured the imagination south of the border, with some predicting she could collect a significant numbers of votes from disaffected Berwickers.
While she was never likely to win a seat that is seen as a two-horse race between Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Liberal Democrat Julie Porksen, an SNP candidate might have been able to pick up support from voters disillusioned, most recently, by the failure of the coalition partners to commit to dualling the last 25 miles of the A1 up to Berwick.
Ms Graham’s proposal also received a favourable reaction from the North-East Party, which seeks greater devolution for Berwick and the north east of England generally.
“I have contacted Hilton Dawson, of the North-East Party, offering to assist them in their campaign if they think that would be helpful.
“But to stand in Berwick to promote devolution for the north east and to lay to rest the scare stories about Scotland cutting itself off from England in the event of independence (I am English born) I required approval from my party’s executive.”
Ms Grahame is no stranger to Berwick’s political scene.
In September she took part in the BBC’s pre-referendum ‘Scotland and Us’ debate at The Maltings, arguing that Scotland breaking away from England would be good for the area and would stimulate the case for devolution of powers to the north of England.
And in the run up to the 2008 general election she lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the town to “return to the fold” although politicians warned it would be too complicated and would cause major upheaval.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 12 Dec 2014
SNP politician Christine Grahame insists that she is serious about contesting the Berwick seat at next year’s General Election and says she has had “loads of supportive messages”.
The level of interest can certainly be verified by the Berwick Advertiser – over 4,500 read the story online in one day and a Facebook link to it received over 3,500 likes.
Ms Grahame initially came up with the idea of contesting the Berwick seat as a possible way to get SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on to the national platform in the run up to the general election and taking part in the televised leader debates.
Last month the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky jointly wrote to David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage inviting them to take part is a series of multi-platform party leader debates. The directors of BBC Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, sent out separate invitations to the main political parties in each nation to discuss setting up general election debates.
The Berwick seat is currently held by Sir Alan Beith who is standing down in May. First elected in 1973, he is the longest serving Lib Dem MP and, in 2010, he had a majority of 2,690 over his Conservative rival.
Ms Grahame told the Advertiser:
“I await consideration by the SNP of my proposal which is a serious suggestion to reflect the similarities between the requirements of Berwick and its near neighbours in the Scottish Borders.
“I would, as always, be campaigning to win the seat but would continue in my role as MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.
“I know the good that devolution can do and would fight to bring this to Berwick and the north of England. In addition I believe we need to ensure that good cross border relations continue.
“My focus is, as always, on social justice and democracy which, of course, crosses borders.”
The Conservatives have the Berwick seat in their sights with the retirement of Sir Alan, and their candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan said this week:
“I believe that all voters should have the opportunity to vote for the person and party of their choice, and I know from my own doorstep canvassing, that there are some Berwick residents whose views resonate most closely with the SNP.”
Liberal Democrat candidate, Julie Porksen, was a little less welcoming of the idea of Ms Grahame as a rival candidate:
“For the SNP to stand a candidate in the Berwick constituency in order to get into the leader’s debates is a publicity stunt and does nothing to improve the lives of those living in north Northumberland.
“The real choice facing people here in the next election is between Lib Dem action on the A1, local health services, jobs and education, or the Tories whose policies, like regional pay, would do great damage to Northumberland.”
Jeremy Purvis, a Berwick native and former MSP who lost his Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale seat to Ms Grahame in 2011 and now sits in the Lord as Lord Purves of Tweed, said:
“It seems a remarkable move from someone who worked so hard to become a Borders MSP,
“If anyone was looking for evidence that the SNP is an anti-English party, then sending Christine Grahame to Berwick should do the trick.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 27 Nov 2014
An SNP politician has offered to stand for the Berwick seat at next year’s general election in a bid to help her party earn a spot in the nationwide TV leaders’ debates.
Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, says broadcasters have no plans to include the SNP leadership in any UK-wide debates to be screened in the run-up to May.
Her solution? To offer to stand as a candidate south of the border.
That way the SNP could claim to be standing right across the UK because it would have candidates in England as well as Scotland. Ms Grahame believes that would justify a place on the national stage for new SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon when it comes to pre-election leader debates.
Ms Grahame said:
“I have offered to stand in Berwick as a candidate so we can get equal coverage on the television because we fight throughout the UK.
“I can still keep my seat in the Scottish Parliament but then they would have to say we stand all over the UK, we should have all our leaders in these debates.”
And this isn’t the first time English-born Ms Grahame has set her sights on Berwick, where she took part in the independence referendum debate in September.
Speaking at the BBC’s pre Scottish referendum ‘Scotland and Us’ debate at Berwick’s Maltings Theatre, she told the audience that Scotland breaking away from England would be good for the area and would stimulate the case for devolution of powers to the north of England.
And in the run up to the 2008 general election she lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the town to “return to the fold”.
Politicians warned it would be too complicated and would cause major upheaval, and afterwards Ms Grahame, said: “It was a semi-light hearted referendum but I think everyone was quite surprised what came out of it.
“Everyone seemed to find Scotland quite attractive.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 20 Nov 2014
The Scottish National Party (SNP) is calling on Westminster parties to clarify as to whether child benefit will be included in devolved powers on offer to Scotland.
The call comes after the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls revealed that a future Labour government would freeze child benefit rises at just 1% until 2017 – a real-terms cut.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said:
“As Ed Balls has made clear in his speech [yesterday], Labour are locked into the Tory austerity agenda. This means more cuts that would hit Scotland hard.
“In the last few years, we have had cuts on top of cuts from the Tories. And it is clear that this will continue to be the case no matter what government we have in Westminster after next May’s General Election.
“Labour’s proposal to cut Child Benefit in real terms would hit families across Scotland in the pocket – at a time when many are already suffering at the hands of Tory cuts.
“Over the past year, the number of people using foodbanks has rocketed by 400 per cent. Westminster has proved time and time again that it cannot be trusted to look out for the vulnerable. For this reason, welfare needs to be devolved to Scotland.
“However, the reality is that Labour’s devolution commission proposals completely fail to outline what welfare powers they would devolve to Scotland – and make no mention of Child Benefit.
“The Labour Party need to remember that 45 per cent of people in Scotland voted Yes last week – and polling has shown that a further quarter of No voters cast their vote in the expectation that substantial further powers would be devolved to Scotland in the coming months.
“Ed Balls’ statement that he would not increase borrowing to fund capital investment also raises questions about the effectiveness of the borrowing powers that are already supposed to be coming to the Scottish Parliament.
“The Westminster parties must now honour their commitment on further powers to the people of Scotland – and the first thing they must do is outline exactly what powers they are proposing for the Scottish Parliament.
“It is only with this much needed clarity we can move forward and work to get the best possible deal for Scotland in the circumstances.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 23 Sept 2014
Scottish National Party (SNP) Media Release:
New figures obtained by the SNP have found a staggering increase in the number of people being hit by benefit sanctions at the hands of Westminster welfare reforms, further highlighting the need for a Yes vote and the full powers over welfare it would bring.
An answer to a Written Question from SNP MSP Kevin Stewart found that, since 2009, there has been a 65 per cent increase in the number of disabled people being sanctioned and a 76 per cent increase in women being sanctioned.
Lone parents have been hit the hardest, with a staggering 563 per cent increase in sanction since 2009.
Analysis from the Child Poverty Action Group has previously found that 100,000 more children in Scotland face being pushed into poverty by 2020.
Those hit by sanctions can have their benefits taken away for a fixed period of anything from a week to three years.
SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:
“These figures show a staggering increase in the number of people being hit by Westminster’s deeply unfair benefit sanctions. It is seriously worrying that lone parents are the hardest hit group with a 563 per cent increase since 2009 – this sets alarm bells ringing about the impact that this policy will be having on children across Scotland.
“The 65 per cent increase in disabled people being hit is also cause for major concern. The welfare system should be supporting and empowering people with disabilities, not making life more difficult for them.
“Women already bear the brunt of welfare cuts, with 69 per cent of planned cuts falling on them – these figures show that despite David Cameron’s attempts to appear to be taking action on equality, the number of women being sanctioned is up by three quarters.
“Evidence of Westminster’s failure on welfare grows by the day. We have already seen a four fold increase in the number of people relying on food banks as a result of Westminster’s obsession with dismantling the welfare state, and now the UK Government’s own report on Bedroom Tax – sneaked out during the reshuffle – finds more than half of those hit by Bedroom Tax are in arrears.
“The Scottish Government is doing what it can to mitigate the impact of welfare cuts, but with the full powers of independence we could do so much more. In an independent Scotland we can build a welfare state that empowers people, tackling poverty and helping to bring about the fairer Scotland we all want to see.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 18 July 2014
Scottish National Party (SNP) Press Release:
After months of denial, a UK [Conservative Party] Minister has finally admitted there is a link between Westminster welfare cuts and the increase in food bank use across Scotland.
The evidence the committee heard today is in stark contrast to evidence given to the committee by DWP director Neil Couling, who said that growing reliance on food banks was a result of the poorest people in society having to “maximise their economic choices”. This was later backed up by Employment Minister Esther McVey in a letter to Housing Minister Margaret Burgess.
Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud has also previously claimed there was no link between Tory welfare cuts and soaring food bank use.
During the committee meeting, David Mundell also said he wanted the UK Government to produce an analysis of the use of food banks – something that has not yet been carried out, despite evidence from the Trussell Trust that reliance on food banks has grown 400 per cent in the past year.
The Trust’s figures also show that 22,387 children in Scotland used food banks in 2013/14 alone – an increase of over 1000 per cent since 2011/12.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael – who previously described the UK welfare system as “fantastic” – was scheduled to appear at the committee, but cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice.
SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:
“While it is welcome that a UK Government Minister has finally faced up to the fact that Westminster’s attack on welfare is responsible for the growing number of people forced to rely on food banks, this admission is long overdue. For months, Westminster has ducked responsibility and tried to blame the poor for the devastating impact cuts to benefits are having.
“David Mundell has said he would like to see a UK Government analysis on food banks – something that has not yet been produced, despite the fact reliance on food banks has grown 400 per cent. Given we now have 22,387 children in Scotland relying on food banks for a square meal, we desperately need a change of direction.
“Scotland is brimming with resources and talent – and is richer per head than the UK, France and Japan – but while it is tied the Westminster system the most vulnerable people in society are forced to use food banks. Only a Yes vote in September can give Scotland the opportunity to build the fairer country we know we can be.”
Commenting on Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael’s cancellation of his appearance before the committee with less than 24 hours’ notice, Annabelle Ewing said:
“It was very disappointing that Alistair Carmichael did not attend the Welfare Reform Committee today. While everyone understands the importance of the commemoration on World War 1, Alistair Carmichael has a duty to appear before the Scottish Parliament and explain why the UK welfare system is ‘fantastic’ as he has previously claimed, and it would be good if it could be rescheduled.”
*David Mundell is the Conservative Party member of parliament for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (2014).
Source – Welfare News Service, 26 June 2014
Scottish National Party (SNP) Press Release:
The Scottish National Party has criticised the UK government for failing benefits claimants with mental health problems.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate today [7 May 2014] on Improving the Employment and Support Allowance application process for people with mental health problems, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP will condemn the UK government’s Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for its shortcomings with regard to people with mental health conditions.
According to a Freedom of Information request, in 2013, 58% (6 out of 10) ESA claimants hit by sanctions were vulnerable people with a mental health condition or learning difficulty – an increase from 35% of sanctioned claimants in 2009 – indicating that people with mental health problems are being inappropriately sanctioned.
Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:
“The UK government must do more to help some of society’s most vulnerable people.
“I have seen an increasing stream of people with quite serious mental illnesses over the last couple of years who are falling through our now very frayed social safety net because of Welfare Reforms. I’m sure it goes without saying that many people with a mental illness won’t ever need to depend on the benefits system. But some of those with more severe mental illnesses do require support, and some of them are extremely vulnerable.
“A key problem is that too often assessors and decision makers have little or no relevant background information about claimants’ complex medical histories, and too rarely seek input or opinions from claimants’ clinicians.
“A report recently published by the Scottish Association for Mental Health, SAMH, details findings on how the experiences of living in poverty affect peoples’ mental health, and how SAMH service users with mental health problems have been affected by UK government welfare reforms. A truly shocking finding was that 98% of respondents said that welfare reforms were impacting on their mental health, including increased stress and anxiety, while 79% were facing financial impacts such as reduced income.
“In six cases reported to the 2013 survey, SAMH staff had to carry out suicide interventions directly related to the welfare reforms.
“The information is there in black and white, and the UK government cannot continue to ignore it.”
> I’ll bet you anything that they can…
Source – Welfare News Service 08 May 2014