The “cruel” two-child benefits cap must be brought to an end in Scotland, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
Speaking in Edinburgh at a Christmas lunch attended by people who have experienced poverty, the Labour Party leader described the cap as “inhumane” and said that much more must be done to tackle the issue of deprivation in the country.
The cap was introduced by the UK Government in 2017 and limits tax credits and Universal Credit to a family’s first two children.
Mr Corbyn (pictured) said: “The two-child cap is inhumane across the whole of the UK and Scotland has the power to lift it.
“It penalises larger families and also, what’s the message to third, fourth and fifth children in large families, do they matter less than the first and second child? I say this with some feeling as I was the fourth of four children.
“A Labour government in Westminster will completely redesign social security, but the Scottish Government has the power to make a difference to people’s lives right now.
“The SNP need to stop enforcing this Tory policy, end the cruelty, and protect families in Scotland from the two-child cap.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday.
Mr Leonard said that the cost of scrapping the policy in Scotland would represent 0.2% (£69 million) of the budget announced by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay on Wednesday.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded by stating that it would not be affordable to lift the cap.
This government does everything it can to mitigate UK welfare cuts. We’re spending in the region of £100 million every year to do that,” said the First Minister.
“The fact that we cannot mitigate every cut is not a lack of political will, it’s a fact of basic arithmetic.
“We don’t hold the budget for reserved areas of welfare so every penny of mitigation has to come from another area of our responsibilities.
“We’ve used our tax powers and we’ve allocated all of the resources at our disposal.”
The Scottish Government, as a minority government, must seek cross-party support if its budget is to pass.
A deal was agreed with the Greens last year, however they have refused to commit their support if more funding for local government is not provided.
Richard Leonard insists that the SNP will not receive support for its budget unless major changes are made to address the issue of child poverty.
“I was told by Nicola Sturgeon it’s a question of arithmetic, I think it’s a question of politics and priorities,” said Mr Leonard.
“At a time when child poverty’s going up and the levels of child poverty are so severe, especially those families who are on universal credit, or are going to be on universal credit, who are hit so drastically by the two-child cap.
“We think that ought to be a priority, it’s a moral imperative. We’ve said as a priority tackling child poverty should be a top budget ask from us of the Scottish Government.
“We saw no evidence of them taking that seriously in last week’s budget announcement.
“So, we’re going to continue to press for a raising of child benefit, we’re going to continue to press for the Scottish Government to use the power that it’s got to mitigate the two-child cap and unless they start to address those key concerns.
“We think it’s about time the Scottish Government understood that its job is to rise to that challenge.”
SNP MSP George Adam said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s demand is disingenuous and hypocritical in the extreme.
“The power to scrap these policies lies entirely in the hands of the Tory Government in Westminster and it’s high time the Labour Party targeted their fire at those who are responsible for these policies, namely the UK Tory Government.
“We must remember that while the SNP have fought tooth and nail against Tory austerity, it is Labour MPs in Westminster who stood by in 2015 allowing draconian policies such as the rape clause and two-child cap to come to fruition by failing to vote against them.
“Only last month Richard Leonard refused to co-sign a letter with the First Minister requesting that power over Universal Credit be taken out of the hands of the Tories and be given to the Scottish Parliament.”
He added that devolving welfare would mean the Scottish Government could fix these problems at their source.
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Robert Perry / PA Wire.