During my maiden speech in the House of Commons last year, I pointed out the absurdity of this Tory government’s regressive plans to cut Housing Benefit for young people – a move which would sum up the reckless, right-wing agenda of what is the most extreme government we’ve endured since Margaret Thatcher.
Under the plans being put forward by David Cameron and George Osborne, Housing Benefit would be removed from all 18-21 year olds – meaning I’d be the only 21-year-old in the country receiving help with their housing costs from the UK Government, simply because I’m an MP.
That would be a ludicrous situation – and SNP MPs will fight against these Tory plans every step of the way.
The idea that any politician could look any one of the almost 2,000 young people in Scotland who’d be hit by this policy in the eye and say that it is fair is completely beyond me – and the fact that Ruth Davidson has so far stayed silent in the face of these unfair plans only confirms that she’s more interested in standing up for David Cameron than standing up for young people in Scotland.
In contrast, I’m proud that the SNP will be taking a different, fairer approach.
As set out in our manifesto last week, a re-elected SNP Government with Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister will restore this vital support for our young people, if the UK government goes ahead with its plans to remove it.
Reintroducing this support would help to ensure that young people in Scotland have as stable a home life as possible and continue to be available for work – and would go some way to preventing an increase in homelessness and destitution among young Scots.
The SNP has already shown that we will take a different path on social security – one which puts respect and dignity for individuals at its heart, rather than one based on punishment which the Tories have been shown to favour.
Last week the SNP published our Scottish Parliament election manifesto. It is a serious, substantial document, laying out the party’s programme for government for the next five years, which aims to effect a transformation in the opportunities available to all our young people. And taking action to ensure that young people in Scotland aren’t discriminated against in terms of their housing costs is just one way in which we’ll use the new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to make sure younger Scots get a fairer deal.
But our ambitious plans for Scotland will only be put in place if people vote for them a week on Thursday – which is why between now and polling day, I’ll be working harder than ever to convince people in Scotland, and young people in particular, to cast both their votes for the SNP, to ensure the re-election of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister and an SNP Government who’ll always stand up for our young people.
Mhairi Black is MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, and the SNP Holyrood 2016 Youth Campaign Coordinator