Keir Starmer’s defence of Tory two-child limit is unforgivable, SNP MPs will work to scrap it

When I became First Minister I pledged that tackling poverty – particularly child poverty – would be one of my defining missions.

We should never simply accept that so many households, in such a resource-rich country, should be struggling to put food on the table or to heat their homes.

And if we’re really serious about tackling poverty, as we are, we all know it often involves making tough choices in a limited budget. But we also know that investing in our children now pays off for all of us in the long run.

So that’s why Keir Starmer should not be remotely surprised by the level of anger and dismay people feel towards him this week, following his announcement at the weekend that a Labour government would keep the Tory two-child benefit cap.

This is a cruel policy which, of course, predominantly affects working families – families struggling to get by in the UK’s low-wage Brexit-based economy.

One of its many consequences is the abhorrent rape clause, where a woman must disclose that her child was conceived as a result of rape in order to access social security.

Over the years, SNP and Labour politicians have often worked well together, standing side by side to demand the Tories scrap their cruel welfare policies.

Whether it was the bedroom tax, delays to access universal credit, the two-child limit and the rape clause – we all agreed on the immense damage these policies were inflicting on the poorest and the most vulnerable, and we agreed they should scrapped.

At least…I thought we agreed.

To hear Sir Keir – who wants to be the next Prime Minister – declare that he won’t scrap the cap, after everything Labour have said, is a massive betrayal to all those Labour members who put faith in him and elected him leader. It is unforgivable.

To say reversing this policy can’t be done because of the economic situation is frankly an insult to people’s intelligence.

Any economic plan which involves keeping children in poverty is not worth the paper it is written on. Labour seem to be forgetting that a strong social security system and economic dynamism go hand in hand.

Providing financial support for families so they can buy necessities is not only the right thing to do, but by boosting their spending power we’re also supporting local economies.

Another question that Labour now need to answer is this. If they have taken a calculated decision to keep the two-child cap, will a Labour government reverse any of the Tory policies which they previously agreed are so abhorrent?

Frankly, it feels like the closer Keir Starmer gets to Downing Street, the further he gets from Labour’s founding principles.

So what I say to him is this. Rather than copying welfare policies from the Tories, you should be looking to what is happening in Scotland under the SNP.

Rather than taking money away from children in low-income households as the UK Government are doing, we’re finding the money to provide badly-needed additional support.

Our Scottish Child Payment is now providing £25 a week to families of eligible kids under 16.

Taken together with the range of other anti-poverty measures we’ve introduced, SNP Government actions are lifting an estimated 90,000 children in Scotland out of poverty this year.

But for all the measures that we are introducing in Scotland – for all the tough choices we make in our own limited budget, to mitigate Westminster cuts and tackle child poverty – we are doing all of it with one hand tied behind our backs

So long as we are tied to a failed Westminster consensus that policies like the two-child limit should stay in place, people will be plunged into poverty.

So I would like to make a suggestion to the Labour leader – in good faith. Work with us – work with the SNP to eradicate child poverty.

If you become Prime Minister, SNP MPs stand ready to work with you to scrap the two-child cap – as well as the other insidious Tory welfare cuts. And we’ll support you in establishing a UK-wide version of our Scottish Child Payment as poverty campaigners have urged you to do.

The SNP’s support for a strong social security system is rock solid, which I am absolutely clear is not only the bedrock of a fair society, but also goes hand in hand with a dynamic economy and a healthy, happy population.

One of the main reasons I support independence is precisely because I know we have the resources to build an economy that works for everyone – we just need the powers to build it.

This will be a clear dividing line at the next election. A choice for the people of Scotland between the Tories, or Labour implementing Tory policies, is no real choice at all. The real alternative is to make decisions over our future for ourselves.

A vote for the SNP is a vote to build a fairer country, and to give the Scottish Parliament the powers to scrap policies like the benefit cap, the bedroom tax, the two-child cap and the rape clause altogether.