Yesterday Scottish Labour announced its second General Election pledge at an event in Edinburgh.
Speaking to a packed room of party members and journalists, Jim Murphy said that a UK Labour Government would devolve powers to vary and top up welfare benefits to create a fairer Scotland.
The announcement is part of a package of measures to deliver on Scottish Labour’s commitment to implement and go beyond the measures set out in the Smith Commission following the referendum.
Within 100 days, a UK Labour Government would introduce a bill to implement the Smith Commission recommendations. However, these recommendations are a starting point and Labour’s approach will reflect our different values and ambitions for Scotland. On Welfare, it would extend beyond this in five important areas.
Scottish Labour would:
- maintain the security of the UK benefits system while passing the Scottish Parliament powers to top up benefits
- ensure that the Scottish Parliament has the power to introduce new benefits, funded in Scotland to meet different circumstances and choices
- extend powers over the incentives and support to work in the benefits system, with particular focus tackling youth unemployment
- fully devolve housing benefit to invest in new housing rather that subsidising the private rented sector
- devolve welfare, not just to Holyrood, but to local communities – starting with the work programme
The pledge was backed up in a strong speech from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The pledge on welfare proposals follows an earlier promise to fund 1,000 extra NHS nurses in Scotland using the proceeds of a UK-wide mansion tax – the first two commitments that will form part of a distinctive Scottish Labour manifesto in the build up to the General Election.
These proposals both echo the arguments that we made during the referendum that devolution allows Scotland to have a distinctive approach through the Scottish Parliament while benefiting from the pooling and sharing or resources across the UK.
As our former Shadow Cabinet member for Local Government I’m strongly in favour of Double Devolution – not just devolving power to the Scottish Parliament but on to our local councils and communities. This was a key principle behind Scottish Labour’s Devolution Commission last year.
The transfer of housing benefit is important as part of our plans to build more affordable social housing. The devolution of the Work Programme alongside Skills Development Scotland means we can address local unemployment and skills to help people get back to work and support local employers get the trained staff they need.
Our commitment to go beyond the Vow would make the Scottish Parliament the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world and combines security and social justice.