Finance Secretary Kate Forbes delivered a statement to MSPs on Tuesday on the Resource Spending Review, which sets out the Scottish Government’s public spending framework for the years ahead.
The Scottish Government faces the same global challenges as governments across the world, but without the same tools and levers that others have at their disposal. I am glad that, despite these restraints, the Scottish Government is still able to prioritise investment in key areas.
These will include tackling child poverty by increasing Scottish Child Payment from £10 to £25 and expand eligibility by the end of this year. The climate crisis will also be addressed by investing up to £75 million per year to deliver the Heat in Building Strategy, enabling £1.8 billion investment towards decarbonisation
By investing £73.1 billion in health and social care, including developing a National Care Service, our public services will be strengthened, as will Scotland’s economy with investment of £581 million in support, including into the Scottish National Investment Bank.
Elsewhere, Social Security Scotland’s approach to disability benefits is a world away from what those of us on the DWP’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP) know, and it’s already making a difference.
I was glad to be able to contribute to last week’s Holyrood debate on the Scottish Government’s update on benefits delivery.
This is personal to me: I am a disabled person, I am in receipt of PIP and I have been through the application process and helped countless others through it and with their appeals, often with plenty of tears.
I visited Social Security Scotland in Dundee very recently. It was truly emotional for me to see just how differently things are already being done. Rather than disabled people feeling that the process is trying to catch us out, we will be faced with accessible language, illustrations and helpful prompts to ensure that we give assessors all the relevant information that they need.
Instead of people having to seek out a Citizens Advice Bureau advisor with a points cheat sheet, help is built into the application itself. Rather than a private contractor being encouraged to turn down requests for assistance, assessments—when needed—will be done in-house in a way that works for applicants.
There will be no more forcing people who have chronic pain and mobility issues to come in for an assessment just so that someone can peer through the window at them and make sure that they really are in agony. As someone who was dragged across town to be stared and sneered at and asked by an Atos Healthcare assessor why, if I felt suicidal and had been depressed for so long, I had not been successful in killing myself, I cannot overstate the difference that that will make to people’s lives.
What’s always clear to me when Holyrood debates the details of social security in Scotland is that this area of policy makes the point better than any other: this union doesn’t work.
For real change, we need independence.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their views.