Scotland can escape the austerity of broken, Brexit Britain – but only with independence

Staggering new figures have revealed that the DWP’s “callous” sanctions policy has been imposed on people in Scotland over 115,000 times.

And as staggering as they are, I can’t say I’m surprised – the Tories have a record of persecuting the vulnerable, and exploiting them whenever their electoral fortunes are sinking.

The UK Government’s own data shows that close to a third of all Universal Credit clients are at risk of being sanctioned – whereby their benefits are reduced or stopped completely.

The data also showed that between May 2022 and April 2023, the failure to attend or participate in a mandatory interview was the reason for 97% of sanctions given out.

Unfortunately, I have heard of far too many cases of people who have missed a bus or been held up in traffic making them slightly late to a jobseekers appointment, which has led to their benefits being sanctioned.

Making matters worse, those in need of state support are often summoned to an appointment in some inhospitable office miles away from their homes.

These disturbing figures show that the cruel Tory sanctions regime – which is punishing the poorest members of our society – must come to an end. At the height of this Tory cost-of-living crisis, the DWP is only pushing more and more people into poverty.  

It’s shameful enough that the invasive, denigrating process treats our unemployed like villains. It’s downright infuriating that Westminster’s barbaric ‘welfare’ system can stretch its tentacles this far north.

All the research shows that penalising those in need of welfare support is counterproductive; we all know what it’s like to be in between jobs or fall on hard times. For the DWP to impose this humiliating process upon my constituents, and unemployed, sick and disabled people throughout Scotland, is an outrage.

The Department’s relentless, ideological crusade against the unemployed and the most vulnerable in our society is designed to inflict shame and distress. What else can we expect from a so-called welfare project built by the Tories?

But what dismays so many people across Scotland is that the Labour Party is now in lockstep with the Tories on everything from welfare support to public spending. They’ve ditched their proposed green investment and nationalisation plans – it’s almost as if they don’t realise that this economic downturn won’t be solved by sitting on their hands. Hard times call for bold measures, not more of the same.

Not content with subscribing to the Tories’ bankrupt economic vision, Keir Starmer is also ignoring the needs of our vulnerable and hanging them out to dry.

He used to agree that Universal Credit was a ramshackle, terrible system that needed to be abolished. Then he changed his mind.

He used to agree that the “heinous” two child cap was a shocking and cruel policy that should be scrapped. Until he changed his mind.

He used to agree we should ditch the rape clause. And the bedroom tax. And austerity. Until he changed his mind.

It’s crystal clear to voters in Scotland that the only way to escape Westminster’s nightmarish management is with independence. An independent Scotland would build an economy that works for the people who live here, and a welfare system that supports those in need, not victimises them.

Westminster will never deliver for Scotland. They’ve had decades to show that they care about people enduring the toughest of times. But the system – and the London establishment types who run it – simply don’t care.

I know that my constituents and my country deserve better. I’m tired of watching Starmer and Sunak posture down south and trade divisive rhetoric. They’re failing the poorest people in our society, the people who need us most.

In direct opposition to Westminster, the SNP Government is building a social security system based on the values of fairness, dignity and respect. We have uprated benefits in line with inflation, increased the ‘game-changing Scottish Child Payment to £25 a week per child, and implemented the Best Start Grants to help people through the cost of living crisis.

However, the sad reality is that all of that progress continues to be undermined while we remain under Westminster control. The Tories and Labour have proven time and time again that tackling poverty and making life better for people in Scotland is not on their agenda.

This is why Scotland must have the full powers of independence – to build a fairer society for all.