Throughout the referendum debate there has been the expected and inevitable negativity from the NO side whilst also a media bias to a degree which is quite unbelievable. As a firm YES voter one of the most refreshing aspects of the referendum campaign has been to see such a vast and diverse range of groups and views on how an independent Scotland can be transformed into a vastly fairer and more inclusive society where the focus is not simply on empowering the elite, stripping away the fabric of the welfare system and attacking the most vulnerable in our society.
From groups like Radical Independence to National Collective, Labour For Indy to Business for Scotland and individuals from @Citizentommy to @eddiereader @BerthanPete to @arenie44 as well as many more including those who may represent a particular party/group such as @BlairJenkins @nataliemcgarry, @TasminaSheikh, @ZaraKitson, @DennisCanavan etc, there is absolute agreement Scotland requires independence in order to deliver the fairer, more prosperous and democratic society we wish to see in Scotland.
Whilst there is absolute agreement between the various groups and individuals on the issue of independence there is no such agreement on how to shape an Independent Scotland, unionists may claim this to be a problem for the YES campaign but this could not be further from the truth. Post a YES vote Scots would have something I certainly haven’t seen in my lifetime…. A CHOICE of parties that would act in the interests of Scotland! We will get the Government we vote for EVERY time, if our MPs vote against a policy we will not be lumbered with it regardless as we will have true DEMOCRACY!
Those who try to portray the differing views amongst the YES camp as being a negative would do well to remember we currently have a system whereby our only choice is to what degree of a right wing, austerity driven party we want to elect and even then our vote may well be meaningless should the majority down south vote the opposite way, we may well be taken out of the EU against the Scottish electorates will and we will without doubt be left contributing to the renewal of Trident which we don’t want nor do we need. We will remain in a union whereby the Westminster Government can AGAIN send Scottish troops to their deaths fighting their ILLEGAL wars, and we will continue to have no voice or power to truly address the problems facing the most vulnerable in our society.
I seen a tweet just the other day on twitter asking people which party they would vote for in an independent Scotland, and for the first time in my life I was unable to decide which way I would vote. I have until now voted SNP as it has been the ONLY party with a realistic chance of delivering the change I believe Scotland needs, but in an Indy Scotland that would all change. The thought of having a choice of parties rather than having only ONE party who will act in Scotland’s interests is exciting but also essential for Scotland to transform and this is something the status quo just does not offer.
People in Scotland should be in no doubt that we have an opportunity to truly change our nation for the better in so many ways on September 18th and this an opportunity we cannot afford to throw away! #VoteYes2014
The Department for Work and Pensions are continuing to treat benefit claimants with contempt and purposefully mis-advising and providing claimants with incorrect info. When a claimant submits a new claim for benefit and requires an advance of benefit whilst their claim is being processed it is the responsibility of the DWP to issue individuals with a Short Term Benefit Advance, However rather than do so the DWP are directing claimants to Local Authorities to claim Crisis Loans/Grants advising that they should be applying for payments from the Scottish Welfare Fund/ other devolved schemes as set up in Wales and England following the abolition of a section of the social fund administered by the DWP, now devolved to Local Authorities, with councils having substantially reduced funding to that which was available to the DWP for these purposes.
The DWP have been contacted in regards to this practice of mis-advising claimants and have responded by stating they will only provide Short Term Benefit Advances to claimants who request this whilst they are completing their details to lodge a claim, Something which the DWP accept claimants are not made aware of and which the DWP have stated they have no intention of making ‘public knowledge’, So in reality benefit claimants have to apply for Short Term Benefit Advances which they are not aware of and will not be informed of through the DWP, and once they have been directed to Local Authorities to claim Crisis Grants and are made aware that Crisis grants are not available for these purposes (as the primary qualifying criteria for Crisis Grants is that the person applying must actually be in receipt of an income- based benefit), the DWP then refuse to issue the individual with a short term advance stating they have failed to apply at the correct time and therefore will not be issued with a Short Term Benefit Advance.
The DWP have also been exposed for their efforts to undermine schemes such as the Scottish Welfare Fund as they have held thousands of applications made in the month of March 2013 for Community Care Grants without actioning them and then issuing letters to the individuals who have made the applications and directing them to their Local Authorities yet again, stating the DWP are no longer responsible for Crisis Loans & Community Care Grants, which is again blatant mis-advising on the DWP’s part which they are fully aware of. Those Applications made in March were in fact submitted at a time where the DWP continued to have responsibility for Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants and as such they are and continue to be responsible for issuing a decision on them as the DWP are only no longer responsible for claims made after 31st March 2013. The DWP continue to be responsible for decisions on ALL applications as well as appeals against any decisions made where the claim was submitted prior to 1st April 2013.
It is clear that this is just a glimpse of the future of what the welfare system holds for the people that are most vulnerable in our society and with many more changes yet to come which will further push those already suffering into further poverty, it becomes clearer by the day, Scots have a massive opportunity next year to end this inhumane treatment of our most vulnerable and we MUST #VoteYes and deliver a fairer society where all are treated with dignity and not the contempt shown to the poorest from successive UK Governments as we must all remember it was LABOUR who introduced ESA & ATOS so to think voting no and hoping for a Labour Govt would improve anything would be hugely naive.
The unionists claim that Scotland is stronger together as part of the union and weaker apart is entirely inaccurate and in fact is truly flawed. Scotland’s economy was recently confirmed as being in a double dip recession as is the rest of the UK, however in the last 2 quarters Scotlands GDP has fallen a total of 0.2% in contrast to the rest of the UK contracting by a total of 0.7% which is more than 3 times the contraction shown in Scotlands economy. Jobs created in Scotland through FDI (foreign direct investment) have been shown to be higher than in any other part of the UK, evidenced in a report by Ernst & Young.
Anne MacColl, chief executive of SDI (Scottish Development International) , said: “These figures are very encouraging and underline the importance of continuing to focus on attracting high-value jobs, based on Scotland’s strong R&D capabilities and sector strengths which will become embedded in Scotland’s economy in the long term.
“The figures also show that Scotland continues to perform strongly in terms of being an attractive business environment that is conducive to the research and development of major projects. Recent successes including Gamesa, Toshiba as well as Avaloq further highlight Scotland’s growing reputation as a global partner of choice.”
The research also found that there was little impact from discussions around independence and corporation tax reform. Again we have the scaremongering stories surrounding the oil industry with production said to be down, yet this year has seen record applications for drilling and massive investments in the industry, oil aside Scotland as an independent nation would still prosper, this country produces 6 times the energy it uses and by being independent Scotland and Scotland only would benefit from this income, we would not continue to find that those in the south and other areas of England continue to pay less than scots for their energy consumption whilst Scots pay more for energy produced in their own country which is a disgraceful fact.
Scotland aside from this is also a world leader in the renewable and offshore energy sector and has 25% of europe’s renewable energy potential, and For our size, we have the strongest university research base in the world. One fundamental question which Scots must ask themselves is ‘If Scotland is so reliant on England/rest of UK and is subsidised, then why are the unionists so DESPERATE to prevent Scotland gaining it’s Independence?’. England in contrast is officially the most over populated country in the EU and is unlike Scotland not self sufficent, does not have a fraction of the offshore/tidal energy potential, Scotland also to this day has the 2nd highest reserves of coal in Europe and are 2nd only to Germany in this regard. Scotland as an independent nation is MORE than capable of flourishing and prospering as a nation and the biggest threat to Scotland’s future prosperity and development is plain and simple= UNIONISTS! Scots in 2014 CANNOT AFFORD to be duped, mislead and blatantly LIED to AGAIN, we must open our eyes and truly engage in this debate and see through unionist scaremongering and propaganda, otherwise future generations may well be the ones to suffer should we as a NATION fail to grasp the opportunity before us. Shape Scotlands future, Shape your childrens future,Vote Yes in 2014 and deliver prosperity for OUR country!!!
As the campaign from both sides continues there are a number of questions which the Scottish people must keep in mind and the fundamental question we must ask ourselves is can we AFFORD to be duped into believing anything coming from the Bitter Together Campaign?
Looking back to the 70s when Gavin Mcrone wrote his report, we must ask why was this report classified secret?? = The report predicted that North sea oil revenue would have given an independent Scotland one of the strongest currencies in Europe and a large tax surplus. On this basis, it went on to say that officials advised government ministers on how to take “the wind out of the SNP sails”. The incoming Labour administration classified the document as secret over fears it could give a further boost to the SNP’s policy of Scottish independence, this report dispelled any claims Scotland could not survive as an independent nation. We are now asked to again believe that Scotland would not be able to cope as an independent nation, if there was ever a reason to disbelieve or be sceptical of Westminster rule over Scotland this report displays exactly why we should NOT trust the Bitter Together Campaign. What else have they hidden and failed to disclose to the Scottish People?
Both the tories and Labour have been shown to blatantly lie and mislead the scottish people, a charge which they cannot deny, they also lied about the VAT returns from North Sea Revenue a fact which was proven only when the SNP requested details of this from Brussels.Scottish Labour claim to know what is best for our country and wish to act on behalf of the scottish people, have they yet to realise the scottish people want no TORIES? and in an independent Scotland the tories would die out as a party, the Lib Dems have also showed themselves to be dishonest and they have paid and continue to pay for the extent of the betrayal of their voters in every election/by-election held since they got into bed with CaMORON and co.
Do we really want to be going into general elections knowing that EVERY single Scot could vote for a single party other than the tories and end up with TORIES in power?, this is not fair and it is certainly not Democratic, and it is a scenario which has occured on no less than 5 ocassions in recent times. Do we want to see more Scottish troops lose their life’s having been sent to an ILLEGAL war despite the overwhelming MAJORITY of SCOTS people and MSP’s opposing it? Do we want to see our NHS privatised? (a process which is already underway in some hospitals in England) Do we want to live in a society where our most vulnerable/poor and disabled individuals are having their living standards dramatically cut to the point where it is a real struggle to keep a roof over their head and a constant battle just to get by with many facing choices of EATING or HEATING their homes, all this whilst the RICH continue to get TAX CUTS!! Do we really need to be spending BILLIONS of pounds on Trident when given technological advances this will be almost obsolete within 10-15 years? Do we want to be associated with a government that sells arms to some of the most oppressive regimes on the planet such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, two nations which breach more international laws and commit more war crimes than is ever reported here in ‘Britain’!
The people of Scotland have a MASSIVE opportunity which we may NEVER have again to shape the future of our nation in a positive way and by doing so giving Scotland a REAL voice in the world, where we can refuse to send our troops to illegal wars, keep our NHS safeguarded, refuse to be Westminsters dumping ground for nuclear warheads, take back the 6,000 sq miles of coastland stolen from Scotland by the Lib Dem/Labour coalition prior to the opening of the scottish parliament where they moved scotlands marine boundaries from berwick upon tweed to Carnoustie!! Most importantly we can show the world we are capable of not just surviving but prospering as an independent nation, 2014 is our time and we must not let this opportunity slip! VOTE YES IN 2014!!!!
With both the Yes Scotland campaign and the Bitter Together campaign now up and running it is time to consider the implications of Scotland becoming an Independent, free nation. The first issue we are going to look at in this blog is the welfare system which has seen some major changes in recent years, with further upcoming changes including Universal Credit and PIP yet to come, both of which will undoubtedly have a massive impact upon the most vulnerable individuals within our society. This blog welcomes contributions from both supporters of the Yes campaign and the No campaign. First off for this blog is a look at the current and upcoming changes to the benefit system and the problems which currently exist as well as the many problems which will result from the introduction of further changes to be introduced. the benefits covered in this post will be:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- DLA (which will be replaced) by Personal Independence Payments
- The Introduction of Universal Credit
- Changes to Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance was introduced as a replacement benefit for people in receipt of Incapacity Benefit and those in receipt of Income Support on the grounds of illness/disability. With the introduction of Employment and Support Allowance there has been wide ranging criticism aimed at both the Government and ATOS who are the company charged with administering the medical assessments which people are required to attend prior to the DWP issuing a decision to the claimaint as to whether they are deemed eligible for the benefit. The criticism aimed at both ATOS and the government is indeed well founded and there have been countless cases of individuals with cancer,parkinsons, schizophrenia, MS, severe clinical depression etc… being found fit for work following a medical assessment from ATOS, it is worth noting that in excess of 70% of the cases (in excess of 70% in Scotland, around 40% UK wide )which go before an independent tribunal are successful and the DWP’s decision is overturned. This in itself highlights how badly this benefit is administered but what is perhaps more concerning is the fact that ATOS empoyees are given targets to reach in terms of the number and % of individuals who are found not fit for work, this immediately ensures that a fair and competent assessment is not guarnteed, the other concerns with this is the amount of false and misleading information cited in ATOS medical reports which would often raise a clear question as to whether this is as a result of blatant fabrication which i firmly believe is the case having dealt with a large number of appeals and tribunals.With people having these benefits withdrawn wrongly and having their incomes drastically reduced whilst under appeal which can take months this often leads to individuals health becoming markedly worse as a result of the undue stress placed upon these individuals, it also leads to individuals encountering debt issues as they have their incomes reduced, in many cases recently individuals have had their letters informing them their payments would stop only after discovering their money had not been paid when attempting to access their bank accounts.The UK Government are well aware of the these problems as these issues have been highlighted from organisations such as CPAG and the CAB service, however they have refused to conduct any form of review or implement any form of change, the reason behind this being that the cuts being made to the benefit system are merely a cost cutting exercise and are not in anyway designed to ensure the people in the most need get the help they require, as is stated by David CaMoron & co, the reforms to disability benefits are simply aimed at taking as many people off these benefits as possible regardless of the severity of the illness or their capability of work.
DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE (soon to be replaced by PIP)
With DLA to be replaced with Personal Independence Payments, The UK Government claim the purpose of this reform is to ensure that individuals with the greatest need receive the support they require. However before any assessments of individuals have been made the government are currently working on the criteria which is to be used and have stated that the criteria which will form the entiitlement to this benefit is being specifically designed to ensure at LEAST 20% of individuals currently in receipt of DLA are not going to be entitled to PIP. This will lead to a large amount of individuals being effectively abandoned by the state and will lead to local authority budgets being strained to breaking point as local authorities will still have a duty to provide care to many of the individuals denied this benefit, this further highlights just how far this government are actively attacking the most vulnerable individuals in society and are destroying their life’s simply to reduce cost, whilst continuing to pour billions of pounds into Nuclear weapons which with advances in technology will be almost obsolete in 10-15 years as to use these weapons they would have to be within 50 miles of the proposed target, not only that but as has always been the case Scotland is to be the dumping ground for most of these weapons making Scotland a target for any terrorists etc attempting to carry out an attack against the UK, most likely as a result of the actions of Westminster such as the illegal war and occupation of Iraq, a war which was overwhelmingly opposed by the people of Scotland and Scottish MSP’s, however that opposition was as effective as the Scottish Parliament’s current opposition to the current welfare reforms, Scotland as it stands has NO voice and can take NO action to prevent these draconian reforms taking place as Scotland has NO voice as part of the UK when it matters and Scotlands views are effectively rendered IRRELEVANT when it comes to the most IMPORTANT issues facing OUR country! The UK government are actively attacking the poor and disabled of that there can be no doubt and remaining part of the UK will most certainly lead to these individuals facing further disgraceful treatment with the withdrawal of income they rely upon to get by and be able to have the support and care they deserve and should be entitled to.
Whilst not all the details are available as yet as to exactly how Universal credit will work, the details which are available and the current plans being considered raise many questions. Universal credit is to be introduced to streamline benefits which is a sensible move, however many of the changes being considered which may form part of universal credit again give a clear view of exactly what the tories have in mind for the future of the welfare system, they are clearly following down a similar path to that of the U.S, a country which has a population of approx 350 million with slightly in excess of 50% of the U.S population in receipt of Food Stamps due to their poor working wages/unemployment. It is also likely that under Universal Credit an individual working part-time on a low wage who can currently still receive some assistance with housing benefit and council tax benefit would have to meet the same jobseeking conditions an unemployed person has to in order for them to receive the limited help they receive with housing benefit/council tax benefit etc, this is an attempt to force individuals into low-paid dead end jobs with no prospects, whereas an individual such as say a Banker or should that be *anker working part time would be fine as they earn more per hour and so would not be forced into the same situation, this benefit will cause huge social issues and it signals the full implementation of modern day slavery and will be designed primarily to give the state greater control of the population by creating further divisions between the rich and poor and also restricting the ability of those in low paid jobs advancing their opportunities, forcing people in low paid jobs to spend less and less time with their children whilst also as a result of tuition fee increases (Only in England at present but will happen in Scotland even for those resident here without the ability to manage our own affairs as budgets will become more strained due to the cumulative effect of tory policies implemented in Scotland), will limit the opportunities youngsters have when leaving school as it will not be ability to learn/progress but rather the ability to pay money which their families who are forced into dead end minimum wage jobs simply cannot afford, creating further ‘social cleansing’ which the tories love to do. There are also plans to introduce sanctions on people’s benefit ranging from 3months to 3 years, which will undoubtedly lead to an increase in crime, mental health issues, homelessness, suicides, as many of the individuals sanctioned will be individuals with serious mental health issues who will have had their disability benefits WRONGLY withdrawn following the introduction of PIP. The current government plans are only the beginning and the impact already felt to this point is nothing in comparison to what the future of the welfare system holds if tory plans go ahead.
Housing Benefit/ Local Housing Allowance
The UK Government in January made changes to the rate of payment made to individuals based on their age, limiting the amount of Housing Benefit paid to individuals under 35, having previously been under 25, this primarily effects people in Private Rented Housing but with many local authorities having massive demand for housing and no houses to place people in, many people have no option but to seek Private Rented Property as otherwise they would have to sleep on the streets, and rather than take action to address the issue of private landlords charging in many cases extortionate amounts for rent in less than perfect accomodation, the tories decide that the young and those on low income should suffer again rather than take real action to address the issue. Given CaMORON’s recent outburst at the young, unemployed and those with low incomes who cannot afford housing, perhaps the pr**k could explain why he felt the need to claim £21,000 of taxpayers money to pay towards his mortgage when he has a personal wealth of around £30 milllion, who exactly was he referring to when he stated there must be an end to ‘the culture of entitlement’ and people expecting ‘something for nothing’, is his £142,000 annual salary not enough along with his many other sources of income, the fundamental problems this country presently has and indeed the world as a whole is not down to the poor or low paid it is down to the GREED of the 1% and david cameron represents that perfectly.
Whether or not the SNP could provide definitive figures and exact details of how a devolved welfare system would be implemented or run, it is abundantly clear Scotland COULD NOT possibly be any worse off than they would be should they remain part of the Union as that is an option which the people of Scotland must see for what it is, the WRONG option!! As i stated at the outset of this post i welcome feedback from both sides of the debate.