Deputy First Minister closes conference with promise to cancel bedroom tax
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has used her speech at the SNP spring conference to attack welfare changes being rolled out by the UK Government, promising that an independent Scottish Government led by the SNP would scrap the controversial ‘bedroom tax’.
“It is one of the worst policies introduced in Scotland since the poll tax and I ask you to join me today in telling the UK government in no uncertain terms that we want it withdrawn,” Sturgeon told SNP members in Inverness.
Closing a conference during which the SNP leadership framed creating a more just society as one of the main ‘whys’ of independence, Sturgeon told delegates that a Yes vote in 2014 was the only way to protect the country from damaging welfare cuts instituted by the UK Government.
She revealed that Scottish Government analysis had placed the total figure for welfare cuts in Scotland at more that £4.5bn in the five years up to 2014-15 – almost double the UK Government estimate of £2.5bn. According to the Scottish Government’s figures, £1bn of those cuts are to benefits directly affecting children.
“I can promise you this: In an independent Scotland – if we are the government – we will take housing benefit out of Universal Credit and restore it as a benefit that is paid direct to social landlords. And let me be crystal clear: an SNP government in an independent Scotland will scrap the bedroom tax.
“There is nothing on offer from Westminster – nothing – that would ever make that a price worth paying. These welfare cuts are a direct attack by the Tories and their Lib Dem helpers on the living standards of more than one million working age households across our country.
“And they pose a serious question for Labour. That question is this – faced with cuts that will plunge 50,000 more kids into poverty, do you still think we’re better together?”
The Deputy First Minister claimed that welfare cuts of that magnitude would have a significant and negative economic impact. “Money out of people’s pockets is money out of the economy. Welfare cuts of this magnitude will cost the Scottish economy 17,000 jobs,” she said.
Sturgeon told delegates there was a “democratic deficit” in the Westminster system, with the majority of Scottish MPs voting against the welfare changes being rolled out.
She also attacked Labour’s record in government on equality, telling delegates that the UK was classed the fourth most unequal country in the OECD in 2009, after years of Labour leadership.
Immediately before Sturgeon took the stage, SNP delegates voted unanimously calling on the government to scrap the bedroom tax.