Where Westminster fails, Scotland can succeed

As damning new research shows disabled, sick and injured people are being left behind by Westminster, it’s becoming clearer than ever that independence is the key to a fairer, healthier and wealthier Scotland. The independent analysis, using OECD data, is a humiliating indictment of the Tories’ welfare policies and the Labour Party, since they have gleefully embraced those cruel and callous practices. It’s crystal clear Westminster is failing our most vulnerable.

The figures show how the UK spends the least of any country in north west Europe on financial support for disabled people and workers who become sick or suffer injuries at work. The UK only spends 1.3% of GDP on incapacity benefits, compared to Norway and Denmark who spend three and a half times more on incapacity at 4.5%. Incapacity benefits include disability benefits, sick pay and government spending on occupational injury and disease. The UK also falls behind Sweden (3.4%), Belgium (3.2%), Finland (3.2%), Iceland (3.1%), The Netherlands (2.8%) and Switzerland (2.7%), who all spend more than double the amount on incapacity support as a proportion of GDP – as well as Luxembourg (2.4%), Germany (2.4%), Austria (2%), and France (1.9%).

If the Tories and Labour want to claim that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world, its potential unleashed by the hardest of Brexits, surely we can do better than this?

The research follows thirteen years of Tory cuts, and comes amid growing calls from anti-poverty charities for the UK government to increase the support offered to disabled people.

Labour’s embrace of Tory economics leaves the SNP as the only major party in Scotland that stands against this Thatcherite orthodoxy, the toxic policies that are hammering our economy and suppressing living standards.

Earlier this month, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) warned the UK’s social security system is failing to provide adequate support, with disabled people “more likely to be in poverty, and in very deep poverty”. It warned “Long-standing inequalities mean that households with a disabled person are falling behind faster in the cost of living crisis… the UK government must do more to support households with a disabled person facing disproportionate levels of hardship.”

The UK is trailing behind our European neighbours when it comes to the low levels of support Westminster offers to disabled people and workers who get sick or injured. Only with the full powers of independence can Scotland build a fairer system, with strong protections for disabled people. The social security safety net should be there for all of us in our time of need, and it’s a scandal so many are left behind under Westminster control. Cruelly abandoned when they are in the most need. The SNP is the only party offering a fairer society with independence – and real help with the cost of living. In contrast, Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer must explain why they back cruel cuts, and a damaging Brexit, that are ripping apart the welfare safety net, slashing household incomes, and taking money away from families during a Westminster-made cost of living crisis.

And with neither party up to the job of delivering, people across these isles are being failed by a broken, crumbling system. Labour and the Conservatives want to sit on their hands – but politics should be about optimism, vision and ambition. Not simply phoning it in until election day, managing a nation’s decline while milking the system for all you can get. The UK government must urgently move to tackle poverty and increase the support offered to disabled people – including by introducing an ‘essentials guarantee’ that benefits will always meet the cost of living, raising sick pay, and matching progressive SNP government policies like the Scottish Child Payment to put money back into people’s pockets.

We’re proud of the SNP’s record when it comes to fighting the constraints of devolution and still managing to deliver for Scotland; from the Scottish Child Payment to investing millions in mitigating the worst of Westminster’s cuts – imagine what we could do with the full powers of independence.

Independence is the key to that fairer, healthier and wealthier Scotland we all want to live in. At the next election, voting SNP is the only way to secure independence, tackle the cost of living and escape the damage of Westminster’s negligent control for good.