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Social Security Spending (Impact of Welfare Reform)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 25th September 2019.

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Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what impact United Kingdom Government welfare reforms have had on Scottish social security spending. (S5O-03567)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government’s 2019 welfare reform report found that when universal credit is fully rolled out, welfare reforms since 2015 could have reduced social security spending in Scotland by around £500 million per year. That will be the impact of the benefit freeze, reductions in universal credit work allowance and the two-child limit.

The cuts only build on a yet larger set of United Kingdom Government welfare reforms that have been introduced since 2010. Previously, our 2018 welfare reform report estimated that by 2020-21, total cuts since 2010 could have reduced annual social security spending in Scotland by a massive £3.7 billion per year.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary confirm how much the Scottish Government spends on mitigating harmful UK Government policies? Does the cabinet secretary agree with the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, who wrote that

“mitigation comes at a price and is not sustainable”?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I very much agree with Professor Alston and his recent reports. Unfortunately, the scale of the UK Government social security cuts is so vast that it is not possible for the Scottish Government to mitigate them in full, especially given that our resource block grant has been reduced by £2 billion in real terms since 2010-11.

Nonetheless, the Scottish Government is continuing to invest more than £100 million this year to mitigate the worst impacts of the UK Government welfare reforms. That is part of the estimated £1.4 billion that we are investing in 2018-19 to support low-income households.