SNP’s False Claims Over WASPI Scandal Exposed
30 July 2017The SNP's claims that it cannot provide assistance to WASPI women have been exposed as false.
A Freedom of Information request to the Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that Scottish ministers have the power to introduce 'discretionary payments', should they wish. But SNP Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman claimed in parliament in February that she could not provide assistance for WASPI women.
According to the correspondence from Tory Pensions Minister Guy Opperman, Ms Freeman has since 'acknowledged' in a letter to the DWP in June that 'there are powers available to the Scottish Government that could be used before they reach state pension age'.
That appears to fly in the face of a claim made by SNP MP Mhairi Black, who this month said it was a 'myth' that additional payments could be made.
Over 2.5 million women born in the 1950s have had their state pension age changed without fair notification, leaving many in poverty.
Scottish Labour believes these women deserve both recognition for the injustice they have suffered, and compensation for their losses.
Around 253,000 Scottish women have been affected by this change, as highlighted by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign.
Ahead of the 2016 Holyrood election, Labour campaigned to use the social security powers of the Scottish Parliament to support some of the WASPI women.
Scottish Labour's economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:
"Thousands of women born in the 1950s have been left facing real financial difficulty because of the lack of notice given by the Tory government about changes to the state pension. Women in Scotland should not have to bear the brunt of Tory mismanagement - and now there is proof that they don't have to.
"Ahead of the 2016 Holyrood election Labour campaigned to use the social security powers of the Scottish Parliament to support some of the WASPI women who were losing out because of the Tories.
"Time and time again, SNP politicians have claimed they don't have the powers.
"Those false claims have now been exposed.
"Jeane Freeman has serious questions to answer about her previous comments which appear intended to deliberately mislead parliament.
"But what is vital now is that action takes place to end the hardship faced by women who have worked all their lives and find that they cannot retire as planned."
CBI/Pearson Report must serve as "Wake up call to SNP"
30 July 2017
Only one-third of Scottish businesses are confident of being able to source the high-skilled workers they need for the future, according to the annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey.
Rod Bristow, Pearson’s president, UK and Core, said today: "Scotland's education system needs to better meet the needs of Scottish business.”
Scottish Labour recently published a new industrial strategy, which is designed to ensure that people are equipped with the skills they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.
Commenting on the survey, Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Iain Gray said:
“This report must serve as a wake-up call to the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon promised to make education her top priority, but instead we have had a decade of destructive and divisive cuts from the SNP.
“We need education policies that improve the outcomes for young people when they leave school and enter the world of work, which is why Labour has an industrial strategy that would equip people with the skills they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.
“We need to inspire a new generation of world-leading scientists and innovators to give our country the skills we all need to succeed.
“That starts in our schools, which is why we need investment in education to address the skills shortages - particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and coding.
“Under the SNP there are 4,000 fewer teachers and £1.5billion has been cut from local services, including schools, since 2011.
"If SNP ministers are serious about improving life chances for the next generation, they will listen to Labour and invest in education and take on board the proposals in our industrial strategy.”
Labour demands roll-out of universal credit is halted
30 July 2017
Scottish Labour has demanded that Tory plans to roll-out Universal Credit are halted amid growing concerns that families are being pushed into poverty and debt.
Deputy leader Alex Rowley has written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to challenge them to halt the roll-out.
He has also contacted every MP in the UK to seek support for a delay.
Mr Rowley highlighted particular concerns about the six-week waiting period for payments at the start of the process.
Evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland suggests this is resulting in people ending up with rent arrears and forcing them to rely on crisis grants and foodbanks.
Universal Credit, which will replace six existing benefits, is supposed to make access to social security payments less complicated. It has been rolled out in parts of Scotland and is due to be introduced in full across the country by the end of 2018 – starting this October.
Scottish Labour’s summer campaign, For The Many, will this week focus on tackling inequality.
A Labour government would act immediately to end the worst excesses of the Tory government’s changes, and would rebuild and transform our social security system.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said:
“I have heard first-hand some of the issues around the roll-out of Universal Credit and there is a very real concern that the system is leaving many in poverty and debt.
“Universal Credit is supposed to make access to social security less complex, and to further support people into work. This cannot be the case if it is leaving people without the vital support they need and drives some to foodbanks simply to survive.
“The six-week waiting period for payments at the start of the process is particularly concerning, resulting in people ending up with rent arrears, and forcing them to rely on crisis grants and foodbanks for the very basic necessity of feeding themselves.
“The accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit must be halted until these problems can be resolved.
"If the system puts more people in poverty or debt, or even increases the risk of these, then it should not continue in that form.
“A Labour government working for the many, not the few, would act immediately to end the worst excesses of the Tory government’s changes, and would rebuild and transform our social security system.”
Labour sets out reforms to boost School Leaver Opportunities
Scottish Labour is today proposing an overhaul of the way that outcomes for 16-to-19 year olds are measured in a bid to improve opportunities for young people.
The Scottish Government’s current ‘positive destination’ criteria has been branded ‘no longer fit for purpose’ by Labour’s education spokesperson Iain Gray, who said more needs to be done to ensure the next generation can secure the jobs of the future.
The current methodology used by the SNP considers a school leaver who ends up on a zero-hours contract to be in a ‘positive destination’.
It also takes no account of insecure or temporary employment, or retention in education courses, because it fails to track the progress, or otherwise, of youngsters over a number of years - despite the current volatility of the employment market.
The number of people in insecure work in Scotland has increased by nearly a third since 2011 under the SNP.
Labour said that policies to improve outcomes for young people once they’ve left school can only be designed if they are based on better quality information and a better definition of successful destinations.
As part of the party’s summer campaign, For The Many, Labour is today proposing a significant overhaul.
Scottish Labour would:
Reintroduce the “longitudinal” approach of the previous Labour/LibDem Scottish Executive’s Scottish School Leavers Survey, scrapped by the SNP, which tracked the progress of youngsters over several years.
Remove zero hour contracts as a ‘positive destination’ for youngsters.
Widen the methodology to include all 16-to-19 year olds, in line with the Scottish Government’s own proposals.
The measures would tie in with Labour’s industrial strategy, unveiled earlier in the summer campaign. The new criteria would support Labour's proposals to:
Invest in education to address skills shortages - particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and coding - so our young people have the skills they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.
Commit to full employment with a focus on the industries and jobs of the future - including decommissioning and renewables, alongside the FinTech [Financial Technology] sector.
Ensure public procurement doesn’t reward companies and organisations that engage in blacklisting, operate zero-hours contracts, pay below Living Wage levels and other unfair employment practices.
A UK Labour government would also introduce a real living wage of £10-an-hour and a ban on zero hour contracts.
Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Iain Gray said:
“Nicola Sturgeon promised to make education her top priority, but the gap in opportunity between the richest and the poorest remains.
“The SNP needs to urgently recognise the damage that a decade of destructive and divisive cuts has done.
“We need policies that improve the outcomes for young people when they leave school, which is why Labour has an industrial strategy that would equip people with the skills they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.
“But SNP ministers have long hidden behind ‘positive destination’ statistics which count almost any job, no matter how temporary or insecure, as a success. There’s nothing positive about the rise in zero-hours contracts, but that’s how they are classified by the SNP.
“We can’t start to improve outcomes until we know what a successful transition from education to employment is. The Scottish Government’s current criteria is no longer fit for purpose.
“If SNP ministers are serious about improving life chances for the next generation, they have to get serious about facing up to how well, or how badly, their policies are working.
“It’s time for a major overhaul. SNP ministers have been too distracted to focus on the day job and too ready to believe their own ‘spin’, so Labour is doing their job for them and putting forward a proposal that would transform the way we measure success.”