We can’t rely on the Tories for a fair society so we must do it ourselves

The devastating reality of Tory cuts became even clearer this week when the Trussell Trust published statistics showing that even more families are having to rely on foodbanks to get by.

In the last year alone, well over a million emergency food parcels were distributed to people across the UK, including to 484,026 to children – a 13 per cent increase on 2016-17. People simply don’t have enough money to cover the basic costs of housing, food and bills.

But it should come as no surprise. The SNP have been warning for years that multi-billion pound Tory and Labour welfare cuts would have a devastating impact on families – leaving many struggling in poverty, debt, and crisis.

It is why the SNP rejected Labour’s calls for austerity cuts “tougher and deeper” than those brought in by Margaret Thatcher. It’s why we were the only major party to vote against the Tory Government’s damaging Welfare Reform and Work Bill in 2015. And it’s why we took Jeremy Corbyn to task over Labour’s appalling plans to keep £7 billion of Tory welfare cuts at the last general election.

In Scotland, the SNP Government have spent hundreds of millions mitigating these cuts and protecting families against Draconian policies including the bedroom tax. But rather than endlessly mitigating cuts that the Tories and Labour impose on us, Scotland needs the powers to end austerity ourselves.

This week, we saw the real difference that Scotland can make when we have more of the powers we need to shape our own future. The passage of the Scottish Government’s Social Security Bill on Thursday, with cross-party support, will establish Scotland’s first social security system.

It will mean that, later this year, the Scottish Government will have responsibility for the delivery of 11 devolved benefits, supporting around 1.4 million people a year.

It’s a milestone law that will provide the foundation of a Scottish social security system built on dignity, fairness and respect, with social security established in law as a human right.

Among the changes announced by the SNP Government is a £30 million increase to the carer’s allowance, a new young carer’s grant, a best start grant for children in low-income families, the extension of winter fuel payments and the introduction of funeral expense assistance.

There will be support for those with terminal illnesses, independent advocacy services for disabled people and the right to challenge social security decisions without payments bring cut.

The values at the heart of Scotland’s social security system stand in stark contrast to the UK government’s punitive and dehumanising welfare reform agenda, which has seen families suffering and people being treated in a cruel and humiliating way.

We can’t rely on the Tories or Labour to end austerity or create a fair society. That’s why Scotland needs the powers to get on and do it ourselves.