Alex Neil MSP

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Alex Neil MSP

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  • Member for: Airdrie and Shotts
  • Region: Central Scotland
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Alex is a member of the following Committees:

Alex is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights (Alex Neil)

Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights (Alex Neil)

First, let me say to Willie Rennie that although Roseanna Cunningham and I are members of the 1999 group we would not describe ourselves as “old stagers”. Let me also say that Mr Findlay might call me an ex-socialist, but he is just ex as far as I am concerned.

The Government will not accept any of the amendments to the motion.

There is a degree of unanimity in the Parliament, in that I think that we agree that the level of poverty in Scotland—and elsewhere in the UK and the wider world—is totally unacceptable. Members mentioned the statistics for Scotland, including that 1 million people, or 19 per cent of the population, live in poverty, but something that no one mentioned is that 230,000 of those people are in severe poverty. Some 59 per cent of children in poverty are in a household in which someone is in work, and many members of our disabled community, which has suffered most in recent years, are living in poverty.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Alex Neil

I will do in a minute.

Whether we are talking about measures of the gaps in educational attainment or life expectancy between the wealthier and poorer parts of our society, I hope that we all agree that it is unacceptable that the UK, which is the fifth or sixth largest economy in the OECD, ranks fourth on level of poverty. It is totally unacceptable that an economy as rich as the UK has the fourth highest level of poverty of all the OECD countries.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Alex Neil

A number of things are wrong with it. I will come on to that.

We must consider why poverty has got so much worse over the past few years. I must say to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats that they bear responsibility for that. There are four or five major contributing factors, which I will go into later.

It is easy to bandy about statistics and make points about various measures, but at the end of the day poverty is about human misery. I—like many members, I suspect—can reel off hundreds of examples of constituents who have come into my surgery to tell me about the desperate financial state in which they and their families find themselves.

Quite recently I had a visit from a single mother, whose three children all have autism. The Department for Work and Pensions had left her with £18 that week to look after herself and the children. That is unacceptable in 2015. We were able to get her to a food bank and to get emergency money to see her through the weekend, and we were able to get her fixed up with welfare rights, to see whether she was getting everything that she was entitled to. Because of various measures that the Department for Work and Pensions had taken, the family had been left with £18 to live on.

There are too many examples of that. George Adam referred to the implications and the consequences of sanctioning by the Department for Work and Pensions. The sanctioning of people who are already down at heel in terms of their income and their ability to make ends meet from week to week is now a major cause of short-term poverty in Scotland. I hope that, when additional powers over welfare are transferred to us, we get control over issues such as that, because those issues are causing much hardship to our people.

Most of the benefit changes that have been made in recent years have been not reforms but cuts to benefits for the most vulnerable members of our society. That has been a major contributing factor to the increase in poverty. The fact that the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation is a major contributing factor to in-work poverty, and that has been the case under both Labour and the coalition Government. Public spending cuts, cuts to housing and cuts to a range of policy areas that have been passed on to Scotland have been a major contributing factor to poverty.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Alex Neil

I will later.

It is utterly deplorable that the Labour Party joined the Tories and the Liberals in voting for another £30 billion of cuts on top of the existing cuts. I hear Ken Macintosh and Neil Findlay pay lip service to the poor, saying that they care about them, but if they care about the poor they should condemn the vote that took place in the House of Commons the other night.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Alex Neil

The only thing that has been targeted for disproportionate cuts is the block grant from the Government at Westminster to the Scottish Government. We have seen our capital budget sliced to ribbons and cut by 26 per cent over recent years, while the resource budget has been cut in real terms by 10 per cent. If our resource budget is cut by 10 per cent and our capital budget is cut by 26 per cent, we have to live within our means. If it had not been for all the work of John Swinney, the Scottish Futures Trust and all the other initiatives that we have taken, we would not be building the number of houses that we are building now in Scotland every year.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Alex Neil

No.

I want to mention the income tax cuts. The Tories and the Liberals make a big issue of the increase in the personal allowance, but they forget to tell us that, on the day that they started to increase the personal allowance, they increased VAT from 17.5 to 20 per cent. That is a regressive tax that hits the poorest more than the wealthiest. The Liberals and the Tories have no excuse. The impact on poorer people of the rise in VAT has been far greater than the benefit from any increase in the personal allowance.

That has been the reality over the past four or five years under the coalition and over the previous 13 years. Kevin Stewart was a bit inaccurate when he said only that Blair was a guru of what Mr Findlay called neo-liberal economics. Blair was not the only such Labour guru: Gordon Brown was a neo-liberal economist, Peter Mandelson was a neo-liberal economist and Jim Murphy was a neo-liberal economist. We will not take any lessons from Labour. The only person in the Scottish Labour Party who is not a neo-liberal is Katy Clark, who courageously voted against the cuts the other night in the House of Commons. Unlike Mr Findlay, she has stuck to the promises that she made in the Scottish Labour Party leadership election.

The other parties ask what we are doing to tackle poverty. I will remind the chamber what we are doing in that regard. We are implementing the living wage and the pay rise for National Health Service workers; we will spend almost £300 million on mitigating cuts in welfare; we are investing in public services; we have free prescriptions, free school meals and free higher education; we are keeping the educational maintenance allowance; we are increasing childcare provision and the eligibility for that provision; and we have GIRFEC and modern apprenticeships. We are also doing a whole range of other things.

The other parties pay lip service to poverty and inequality; we act on poverty and inequality.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights (Alex Neil)

The Scottish Government meets representatives of COSLA frequently to discuss shared policy interests. In addition, the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment and I meet COSLA bimonthly to discuss issues of mutual concern.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Alex Neil

Membership of COSLA is a matter for individual councils. At present, all councils remain members of COSLA, and we continue to discuss shared policy interests with COSLA. I would not dare to interfere in internal matters.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Alex Neil

Absolutely. We are more than happy to discuss all those matters in a very inclusive manner, as always.



Meeting of the Parliament 10 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights (Alex Neil)

Before I answer the question, I wish Ms Boyack all the best in the Labour Party leadership election. Had I a vote, I would have voted for her.

The Scottish Government routinely uses emerging evidence on demographic change in its policy development process. As a consequence, we have undertaken a range of actions to support pensioners’ rights.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12182.1 Alex Fergusson: The Chilcot Inquiry—As an amendment to motion S4M-12182 in the name of N
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Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot’s offi
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12176 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the gene
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Alex Neil
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12095: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11641: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11570: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11569: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11459: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11458: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11457: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11456: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11455: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10156: Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
This Member currently holds a ministerial post. First Minister and Ministers cannot ask the Government questions which is why no recent questions are displaying here. Please use the full search to find details of previous questions by this Member.
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S3W-20481: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/02/2009 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-20180: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/01/2009 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-20020: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 21/01/2009 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-19295: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-19297: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-19296: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-19293: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-19294: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-19298: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-19299: Alex Neil, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/12/2008 Show Full Question >>

Further information

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