Local SNP MSP Tom Arthur has criticised the UK Tory government for its ‘deliberate’ failure to tackle poverty, after the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty reports that the UK’s social security net has been ‘badly damaged’ by the Tories ‘ideological’ austerity agenda.

Philip Alston’s report found that although the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, one fifth of its population (14 million people) are living in poverty, and 1.5 million experienced destitution in 2017. It also predicted that 40% of children will be living in poverty by 2021, and warned that going ahead with Brexit would have a massive detrimental impact on the most vulnerable in our society.

Alston describes the UK social security system as a ‘digital and sanitised version of the 19th century workhouse’ and calls the Tories’ decision to dismantle the welfare safety net ‘ideological’. Alston notes the increase in Universal Credit allowances and plans to introduce a consistent measure of poverty but calls this ‘window dressing to minimise political fall-out’.

The report acknowledges the efforts of the SNP Scottish Government in trying to mitigate the impacts of the austerity policies, despite Tory cuts to Scotland’s block grant funding. Alston praises Scotland’s social security system – a system based on dignity and respect.

Commenting, Tom Arthur MSP said:

“This UN report is a damning indictment of the Tory government and its shameful legacy of worsening poverty and inequality across the UK – the UK government must halt its austerity agenda now and follow Scotland’s lead by building a social security system based on dignity and respect.

“There is no doubt that Brexit will compound a decade of Tory austerity. Dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will would be devastating – costing up to 100,000 Scottish jobs and leaving every person in Scotland up to £2,300 worse off a year.

 “The impact of austerity policies is clearly visible here in Renfrewshire South, with recent statistics revealing an increased reliance on food banks and a child poverty rate of 26.8%. Unfortunately, it appears that the UK Government is in a state of denial about the devastating consequences their welfare policy inflicts on the most vulnerable members of our society.”

“In 2018-19, the Scottish Government invested over £125 million to mitigate the worst impacts of welfare reforms and to protect those on low incomes, but it is proving impossible to fully address this issue without the full levers of power.”

The full report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights is available here.

Categories: News