The Scottish National Party has said it will protect low-paid workers from suffering a loss of income under George Osborne’s tax credit cuts.
The commitment was made in a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday afternoon by Scottish social justice secretary Alex Neil who confirmed the “Scottish Government will not stand idly by and watch the living standards of our poorest families fall off a cliff.” He stopped short however of saying the SNP will restore tax credits in Scotland.
Speaking in a motion tabled by Scottish Labour, Alex Neil said:
“We will properly address the needs of people affected by cuts in tax credits…We will establish the most effective way to administer any top-ups to tax credits. We will properly cost our proposals before we bring them before this parliament. We will identify where any additional funding will come from.”
The Scottish Government are angry about Osborne’s current plan to cut tax credits, claiming it would result in an average loss of £1,500 a year to a quarter of a million low income working families.
Neil’s confirmation that the SNP will try and mitigate this loss came as he also made clear that new amendments to the Scotland Bill will give the Scottish Parliament the power to restore tax credits.
The Scotland Bill is a series of amendment being made to the Scotland Act by the UK government to make good on the promise they made before the Independence referendum to devolve more powers to Scotland.
There had been some confusion over what exactly the latest amendments to the Scotland Bill would allow the Scottish Government to do. The SNP’s press office had initially claimed that the Bill would not give them the power to restore all tax credit cuts, despite the Scottish parliament’s information service making a claim to the contrary.
The fiscal framework of the Scotland Bill is still being negotiated by the Scottish and UK governments and with bargaining still to be done the SNP have been very cautious to not say exactly how they will use their new powers.
Alex Neil only made the commitment to address the needs of people affected by cuts in tax credits after the leader of Scottish Labour Kezia Dugdale unveiled her policy to top up the incomes of those hit by tax credit cuts.
Scottish Labour are using the SNP’s unease with making concrete commitments to try and convince voters that the SNP is more concerned with winning power for Scotland than opposing polices set by the Conservative government in Westminster.
The motion that Labour tabled was that “the parliament believes that the UK government’s proposed changes to tax credits would leave working families worse off can calls on the Scottish Government to restore tax credits to families using the new powers being devolved.” The SNP only backed the the motion after amending it to remove the commitment to “restore tax credits.”
Because Neil didn’t give any details on exactly how he would administer “top-ups” to tax credits or say how they would be funded, Scottish Labour are accusing the SNP of not being fully committed to protecting those affected by the cuts.
The tax credit issue is now set to dominate Scottish politics with both parties now commited to mitigating the effects of them, but no consensus on how it should be done.
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