11 Sep 2014

Why welfare is a vote winner for Scottish independence

Some of the biggest and boldest promises being made by the yes campaign are on welfare.

Independence would see the so-called “bedroom tax” abolished. The roll-out of the troubled Universal Credit benefit would be halted as would Personal Independence Payments – the coalition’s replacement benefit for Disability Living Allowance, which has had a difficult start with hundreds of thousands of claimants waiting for assessments.

If you’re looking for vote winners – certainly among people on welfare – it’s fair to say all of the above are a good way to start.

But talk to people in Inverness who rely on benefits , and it’s interesting which part of the pitch for independence seems to be having the greatest appeal.

The policies are one thing but it’s the vision of a fairer Scotland – the word “fairer” is peppered throughout the white paper – which seems to be drawing them in.

Mags McDonald, is a former medical secretary, who has been out of work since she was diagnosed with acute psychiatric illness eleven years ago. She says she’s simply fed up with being treated like a third-class citizen.

She voted Liberal Democrat at the last election, drawn by their promises of a fairer society. Instead she says, she ended up with a coalition government who’ve introduced a “barbaric” welfare system.

The blame for the rhetoric of “skivers and scroungers” she lays at the government’s door.

“There’s more of an element of hatred for people like us on benefit, as if we’re taking the money for ourselves and we’re living the high life, big holidays, drinking , drugs, everything and that we don’t want to work and that we’re just settled in receiving money.”

Twenty-year-old Emma Grant agrees. She has a learning disability and has just moved out of a residential boarding school to live on her own.

She has real concerns about the reality of independence, is nervous about whether the country could still afford to pay for the support she needs, for the benefits she relies on.

But yet she will vote yes to independence. Why? She’s hoping Scotland, as a smaller independent nation, could be easier to persuade that people on benefits are not all cheats and idlers – she says, the prevailing attitude.

The vision of a new welfare state on offer from the yes camp has been clever, their opponents concede, but they say, it is just that – a vision – a mirage.

But the SNP say Scotland is a wealthy country and it can afford to be a fairer one.

And deciding who they believe will determine how people vote next week of course. But for virtually everyone we met, whatever their reservations about the facts and figures, there was a feeling they might as well vote yes, when for them , things could hardly get much worse.

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3 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Jackie,

    If the vote was based solely on fairness the London neocons (tories, New Labour, LibDems, UKIP) would be booted from John O’ Groats to Lands End and then on to Washington where they belong.

    But the vote is actually based on hundreds of years of memories of a mix of nationalist competition, imperial and colonial co-operation, religion and opportunism from both sides, most of it in favour of the English.

    However, for the first time the Scots have a clear view without the overwhelming aspects of the British Empire and the mad obsessions of religion. This has led to an understandable sense of nationalist euphoria. Unfortunately it will not be enough on its own to deal with international capitalism. The Scots would do well to note what was done to the working class of Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Greece, Italy, and elsewhere in the world.

    Nobody with an ounce of common sense believes the Scots could not administer their own affairs with more fairness. The REAL question is whether they could withstand an assault from international capitalism. In my view they would do well to also note the nation-state has had its day. A nationalist siege mentality is a real danger, as is the long term likelihood of it being subsumed into the same capitalist trap of lies and oppression as everyone else.

  2. Harry Blackbarry says:

    I’m quite shocked that my mild comment of yesterday seems to have been excluded. All I said was that I was disappointed that Channel 4 News had fallen into the trap of using the word “welfare” when what it should be saying is “social security”. Come on Channel 4 News, you are better than that and you ought not to be afraid of criticism – it gives you the opportunity to improve.

  3. Andrew Dundas says:

    Thanks to an initiative from Labour in Holyrood, Scotland has offset the Bedroom Tax with money from Scotland’s own budget. So no problem there, then.

    The most important Welfare question in Scotland is who will pay for our pensioners out of our own national insurance income? We’ve a declining population of working age – because of the dramatic decline in Scottish birth rate in the mid-’60s – and growing numbers of elderly folks such as myself. Those grim prospects have been over-looked.
    Today, our growing pensions problem is funded by NI contributions from elsewhere in the UK, but who will pay for them when we’re alone? Alec Salmond says he’ll encourage hundreds of thousands of immigrants to surge into Scotland. But who’ll pay for their housing and for their children’s education?
    Who’ll pay for the NHS cost of caring for our elderly folks too?

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