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I will begin with a rather strange declaration, which is that I agree with the Conservatives. I, too, believe that “work should pay”. The sad reality is, however, that in Scotland, more than 60% of children in poverty come from families who are in work. We have already heard that the proposed cuts will hit those in work the hardest, with in-work families losing, on average, £1,300 in 2016-17. We have heard, multiple times, how that financial gap will be filled with the introduction of the new so-called national living wage; but it is not a living wage. It falls 65p short of the real living wage, which, outside London, sits at £7.85 per hour. It should therefore be referred to as what it is: a new minimum wage.
If we look across the board at the families, both in and out of work, who will be affected by the cuts, we see that, on average, households will lose roughly £750 as a result of social security cuts, while households that will benefit from the new minimum wage will gain only £200 from it. That means that the new minimum wage will compensate for only 26% of the total losses created by cuts in tax credits.
I know how much the Government like to talk about financial “black holes”, especially when it comes to the SNP, but the reality is that if they proceed with their proposals they will create a financial black hole of £550 for roughly 8.4 million people in this United Kingdom. It is clear from the figures that their policy serves no purpose other than to push more and more people into poverty, and, in particular, to push more children into poverty. In Scotland, more than half a million children are currently in families who rely on tax credits, and 350,000 of those children are from more than 200,000 low-income families who will be hit by these changes.