Scottish social security system will oppose Westminster sanctions, Nicola Sturgeon confirms 

First Minister signals opposition to Westminster sanctions in new bill

SCOTLAND’S SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM will oppose Westminster’s sanctions regime on claimants wherever possible, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has signalled. 

Campaigners’ hopes were raised a fortnight ago when the Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said the government would not cooperate with the Department for Work and Pensions, where the Scottish Government gains the power to prevent a sanction.

Sturgeon confirmed that the government was seeking to prevent the “human misery” of sanctions, hundreds of thousands of which have caused pain and stress to people in vulnerable circumstance.

The sanctions regime includes people seeing financial support withdrawn due to a variety of bureaucratic issues. 

“We want to make sure that we mitigate the effects of that as far as we possibly can, and don’t cooperate in a scheme which is about piling human misery on human misery.” Nicola Sturgeon

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP pushed for clarity on the issue.

He said: “Can the first minister confirm, does that commitment go beyond the already announced voluntary schemes in relation to disabled people and people with long-term health conditions? Or will this be the universal approach for all people participating in devolved work programmes under the Scottish Government?”

Scottish Greens: Holyrood has opportunity to curtail benefit sanctions regime

Sturgeon answered: “I think Patrick Harvie knows how serious the ScotGov is in introducing a social security system, with the limited social security powers we’ll be getting, that have dignity and humanity at their heart.

“Now I think the sanctions regime imposed by the Tories in its current form breaches those principles, and I know that from the many people I see in my surgeries, and we’ll all see these people who have sanctions imposed on them for reasons that they should never, ever face those circumstances. 

“So as we develop the detail of the system we’re putting in place, we want to make sure that we mitigate the effects of that as far as we possibly can, and don’t cooperate in a scheme which is about piling human misery on human misery.

Sturgeon pointed to the ongoing consultation into a Social Security Bill over the next year, which will provide further detail on how the system will operate in practice.

Paul Spicker: The Scotland Act and the loophole on benefit sanctions

“It does sound as though the first minister has gone further than in the past,” Harvie said, welcoming Sturgeon’s comments. “It does sound as though we’re going to see employment programmes which are all voluntary, and do not impose socially harmful and counter-productive sanctions on people in Scotland.”

Social security powers were devolved to Scotland as part of the 2016 Scotland Act, and will go through a phased introduction period. 

Picture courtesy of Scottish Parliament TV

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