Christina McKelvie MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : 18 December 2014
Christina McKelvie (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)

The people of Scotland, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, are being battered and assaulted by benefit cuts and confronted by the bedroom tax and they are trying to battle the frequently bizarre decisions made at Atos assessments. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, 22,000 children used food banks last year.

That is what Iain Duncan Smith refers to as welfare reform. His concept has more in common with the old reform schools than it has with welfare. In fact, the entire coalition view of welfare and benefits bears a terrifyingly close resemblance to the Victorian approach to welfare as punishment, in effect—if people are so careless and so self-indulgent that they become a charge on the state, they ought to expect to live in misery as a result.

So far, Iain Duncan Smith has managed to create a complete fiasco of the universal credit and PIP programmes. Even the Public Accounts Committee has recognised that.

Although we of course welcome any extension of devolved powers to Scotland, the Smith package—which has definitely not been delivered yet—falls very far short of this Government’s ambition for all the people of Scotland. I will not itemise the carefully wrapped package contents. I want only to remind everyone of the fundamental principle behind the Smith report: the rules ensure that neither the Scottish Government nor the UK Government will lose or gain financially from the act of transfer of power, so 85 per cent of powers over welfare remain reserved to Westminster. In other words, in real terms—no change. It is Westminster rule, not home rule. Without meaningful control over our national budget—by that, I mean that the elected Government enjoys the genuine freedom to raise and spend its own money for the betterment of all—we continue to be constrained by the choices of Westminster, however inappropriate those choices are for Scotland.

On welfare, we could get control of over £2.5 billion out of a total of £17.5 billion of spending. For me, that is just tinkering at the edges. It is not enough to allow us to change a broken system and turn it into an effective one that meets the needs of the Scottish people, rewarding those who achieve but never punishing those whose circumstances limit their options.

Why has “welfare” turned into a bad word—a criticism, an accusation? Welfare is wellbeing. Welfare is someone living their life in as full a way as is possible for them. If they are severely autistic, if they suffer from bipolar disorder, if they are wheelchair bound and/or suffering from a long-term, perhaps life-limiting or even terminal condition, they have the absolute right to enjoy life to the full

I thought that the notion of the deserving poor had died with Dickens, but obviously not. As a result of reforms announced during 2010 to 2015—let us not forget where the Welfare Reform Act 2012 came from—households with both disabled children and adults are facing the highest total reduction in income. In terms of the percentage of annual income, their loss is around three times the average reduction in income that is faced by non-disabled households.

As a new member of the Welfare Reform Committee, I have been both moved and shocked by the evidence that we have received. We have listened to the accounts of people who have been subjected to sometimes brutal and even offensive questioning, without any supportive expert available—my colleague Kevin Stewart gave the perfect example of that with the testimonies of the people we heard from last week. Such questioning has left people confused and unclear about how to go forward. That is not just a daily but an hourly issue in my constituency.

Engender has explained in a briefing that

“since 2010, 85 per cent of cuts to benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions have been taken from women’s incomes. Together with recent announcements in the Autumn Statement, this amounts to £22 billion from a total of £26 billion.”

That means that £22 billion of those cuts have been shouldered by women. Existing inequalities mean that women have fewer financial assets and less access to occupational pensions. They are still paid less than men—13 per cent less in Scotland for full-time workers and 34 per cent less for part-timers, who are largely women.

Then there is all the unpaid caring work of bringing up children and looking after other relatives, and what we can call the motherhood penalty. As Engender has pointed out, these reforms are a move backwards towards greater misogyny and apparently the desire to remove benefits from disabled people and their families. By now, no one should be surprised to learn that the greatest losers are women with a disability.

Citizens Advice Scotland is all too aware of the problems that the current system continues to spawn. People are literally starving as a result of sanctions and the sudden withdrawal of benefits. As they face Christmas, it is likely to be with the help of a food bank and the notion of armfuls of presents will not figure. Locally, from some of the monitoring that I have done, it seems to be young men who present themselves more often—young men with few family ties; young men with additional problems; the same young men who, percentage-wise, are the ones who commit suicide.

On “Sunday Politics”, Iain Duncan Smith told us that food banks were just fine—Germany has lots of them. He said that it was nonsense that the current welfare system was pushing people towards food banks. Well, I have some news for Mr Duncan Smith—the people in my constituency are going to food banks because they have no alternative. They need to feed themselves and their children and, without welfare support, they cannot do it. I hope that he is proud of that achievement.

So, where to from here? We need to ensure that Scotland has a real—and a loud—voice in Westminster in next year’s elections. We need the voices of those who are genuinely committed to a fairer society to overwhelm those who are committed only to their own self-interest.

We will fight ridiculous measures such as the bedroom tax so that Scotland can move forward and make its own decisions. Our control now is limited. In an independent Scotland, we will have the freedom to make the choices that we cannot make now.

If there were but one refrain that united the Scottish Parliament, I would hope that it would be this: let us do our absolute best for all of the sovereign people of this land and let us deliver to them a fair and equitable society that does not identify people as rejects or the undeserving poor.

15:40  

European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

I should add to that by pointing out that the Scots have always liked a good deal. However, we are rather canny, which is why the committee is looking at every aspect of the agreement. As you will understand, over the summer we were lobbied very heavily on the negative elements of the process, and I have found it very valuable to hear about the possible opportunities as well as some of the pitfalls. Your experience and input will be very important in informing the process.

This inquiry will continue well into the new year, and we will be very keen to hear from you if you have any additional information or if you know anyone in your sectors or wider than that who might have something peculiar or a different perspective that might inform our process. That would be extremely helpful. I should also give Scottish Enterprise a gentle prod by saying that it has some homework to do, and we look forward to seeing that in the near future.

Thank you very much for your involvement in this session, and I hope to hear from you in future. We will now move into private session.

11:05 Meeting continued in private until 11:28.  

European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

Are there any final points?



European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

We have had a briefing from our very helpful Scottish Parliament information centre people on some of the other trade agreements, but your drawing attention to the Canadian agreement is also helpful.

I am conscious of the time and the fact that we have to finish this session and get on with other business, but does anyone have any final comments or questions?



European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

I very much take that on board, but let us say that, following the Smith commission, the Scottish Government eventually negotiated the ability to change the minimum wage to a living wage. Would that make us subject to something like the Egyptian situation?



European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

In your written evidence to the committee, you raised issues around the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. The committee has received lots of evidence, even just on our Twitter feed, of grave concerns about that. You say in your evidence that it is a way to protect and ensure that businesses are not discriminated against with changes to legislation and regimes in the host state, for instance.

In the Egyptian model, the Egyptian Government increased the living wage—this is maybe where Alex Rowley was coming from—and then became subject to a challenge on that and the costs related to it. How do you marry up the two ideas that that mechanism is a good thing that protects people, but when a state takes action, such as in bringing up its minimum wage to a better level, that has an impact on that state?



European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

That competence is retained by member states and is not conferred to Europe.



European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

One of the concerns that has been raised with the committee is that there would be a race to the bottom on regulation, with the lowest of standards rather than the highest. Are you saying that the opposite is true?



European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

Mr Williamson, you could come in here, because your industry has battled with tariffs for years. Maybe you could give us an insight into what has happened so far.



European and External Relations Committee 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
The Convener

I should point out that we asked representatives of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to talk to us today, but they said that they were not in a position to have enough information to give to the committee. There is maybe a job of work to be done in that regard. We got written evidence from the CBI, as well.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
>> Show more
YesCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
>> Show more
YesCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Christina McKelvie
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11950: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11935: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11897: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11884: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11862: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11860: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11846: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11785: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11782: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11778: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Christina McKelvie
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03859: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23617: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03805: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03767: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03639: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03622: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22754: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22699: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03537: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03447: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/07/2014 Show Full Question >>

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