Nicola says no to Labour leader’s plea to mitigate Tory two-child benefits cap
By Bill Heaney
Labour and the SNP clashed in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday over the two-child benefits cap and universal credit which Richard Leonard claimed were amongst the “worst impacts” of the of the Tory Government’s social security cuts.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, pictured left, said the Labour leader was well aware that the [Scottish] Government does “everything that it can to mitigate United Kingdom welfare cuts, and we spend in the region of £100 million every year to do that.
“The fact that we cannot mitigate every cut is not because of a lack of political will; it is a fact of basic arithmetic.
“We do not hold the budget for reserved areas of welfare, so every penny of mitigation has to come from another area of our responsibilities. As the United Nations special rapporteur on poverty said just a few weeks ago:
‘Devolved administrations have tried to mitigate the worst impacts of austerity … But mitigation comes at a price and is not sustainable’.”
She asked the Labour leader that if he really wanted to mitigate UK Government Tory welfare cuts he should join with the SNP and ask for all the powers over welfare to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Richard Leonard said: “Here are the facts: this Parliament has the power to mitigate the two-child cap, and that would immediately benefit 3,780 families across Scotland, some by more than £2,500 per child per year.
“The urgent issue for those families is not which Parliament sets social security policy, but whether their kids go to bed hungry tonight and whether they can clothe them tomorrow morning. It would cost only 0.2 per cent of the Scottish budget to deliver, so why will the First Minister not act?”
Nicola Sturgeon said all the money available had been allocated but that if Labour could suggest an area from which the cost of mitigating Westminster cuts then she would take a serious look at it.
She said: “We have used our tax powers and we have allocated all the resources that are at our disposal. We have chosen to invest in the health service, education, local government and welfare.
“If Richard Leonard, pictured right, wants us to spend money on other things, he has to come to us. We will help him to cost those things …
“Once they are costed, if he wants to have any credibility and to be taken seriously, he has to tell us where he wants that money to come from in the draft budget.
“Is from health investment? Is it from local government? Is it from other areas of welfare? That is an offer to Richard Leonard.
“If he tells us, we will listen seriously. Let us see if Labour is prepared to step up to the plate.
“We have some weeks before Parliament has to decide on the budget. I would love to do what Richard Leonard is suggesting on the two-child cap.
“We have allocated all the money in the budget. If he wants to spend more, he has to tell us how much his tax proposals will cost.”