The Scottish Parliament Economy Committee met this week to consider Scotland’s economic future post 2014 and heard evidence from anti-poverty campaigners and academics.
The committee were advised that regardless of the outcome on Sep 14th, radical reform of the welfare system is vital to reduce economic inequalities for the people of Scotland. Those giving evidence spoke of a social movement and opportunity for change.
Morag Gillespie, from Glasgow Caledonian University’s Poverty Information Unit, said that the various methods of defining equality meant that the UK can be ranked in a range of positions in terms of comparative inequality around the world, despite this the ranking was consistently always at the wrong end of the scale and never at the ‘good end’.
When asked by SNP MSP Joan McAlpine if Scotland needed independence to reform the welfare state, Ms Gillespie said:
“There is potential with control over more areas whether that’s independence or not.
“There is a danger that certain benefits are devolved but others reserved at UK level. That is chaos and there has to be coherence.”
Oxfam’s Senior Adviser Dr Katherine Trebeck told the committee that she does not think the Scottish Government’s White Paper on Independence offers a “radical alternative” to UK policies. Dr Trebeck said:-
“Oxfam has no position on the referendum, but we are in no doubt we need radical change in how we do the economy in Scotland and what is exciting about the referendum is that it has opened up a discussion in Scotland about what sort of country we want to be.
“We need no further indictment to the fact that our economy and social safety net is broken than the dire rise in food banks.”
Also giving evidence, Bill Scott, director of policy at Inclusion Scotland, said:-
“There is I think in Scotland at the moment quite something of a social movement about the issue of the referendum.
“Whatever side you are on in the debate I think there are people interested in politics for the first time in many years.”