On Tuesday 19th December, the historic Social Security (Scotland) Bill passed at Stage 1 of the legislative process – as MSPs agreed to the general principles of the Bill.
The Bill is a framework bill establishing a Scottish social security system to deliver the social security benefits being devolved to Holyrood from Westminster, including disability living allowance, personal independence payments, and carer’s allowance.
The Scottish Government is committed to a human rights based approach to social security, which has at its heart a commitment to treating individuals with dignity and respect.
SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire MSP, who sits on Holyrood’s Social Security Committee, the lead committee scrutinising the Bill, was amongst the MSPs who contributed to the debate.
In her speech, Ruth welcomed the significant step forward represented by the Bill, whilst cautioning that we should not lose sight of the limitations that remain – with 85% of social security powers still under the control of Westminster and Scotland remaining at the mercy of failed UK Tory welfare reform, which is increasing poverty and homelessness.
Speaking, Ruth said:
“This historic bill establishes the first UK social security system based on the principle that social security is a human right. It is heartening to note the unequivocal support from across the Parliament and from external stakeholders alike for the broad principles and aims that underpin the bill.
They are principles and aims that we should all be proud of and which are worth reiterating.
The bill seeks to create a society in which those in need of help are supported and not demonised; a society in which our social security system is run for the people and not for profit; and a society in which every person, with no exception, is treated with dignity and respect.
The bill will enshrine those principles in legislation and further establish Scotland’s reputation as a nation that values compassion and empathy and that rejects selfishness and demonisation when it comes to how we treat those in need of a little extra support.
When the bill passes stage 1 today, it will mark a hugely positive step forward. There is much to celebrate and to feel optimistic about.
However, at the same time—and I regret having to point this out, but it is important to do so—we cannot lose sight of the challenges that remain and the limitations that exist upon the powers of this Parliament.
When we discuss social security related issues from child poverty to disability rights, the regrettable reality is that Scotland is, more often than not, acting with one hand tied behind its back, with UK Government policies taking things backwards as we legislate to move forwards.
We must also remember that 85 per cent of welfare powers will remain under Westminster control and that even the powers that are being devolved are being impacted by cuts at the UK level.
I emphasised that point back in November 2016, when we first debated the future of social security in Scotland. If it was an important point then, it is even more important today because, although the bill will make a hugely positive difference to the lives of people in Scotland, it will not—because it cannot—solve all the issues around social security. That is not to detract from the significant difference that the bill can and will make, but we need to remind ourselves to keep a broader perspective on the context in which we are working towards our aims.”