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Calls for more talks on EVEL

More than half ‘English only’ bills affect Scotland, says Sturgeon

Nicola SturgeonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon claims that more than half the bills the Tories consider “English only” actually impact on Scotland.

She has written to Scottish Secretary David Mundell pointing out that 13 of 20 bills passed in the last parliament were relevant to Scotland.

In a letter to Mr Mundell she is demanding the UK Government clearly defines which bills would apply to Scotland in implementing English Votes for English Laws (EVEL).

Ms Sturgeon wants Deputy First Minister John Swinney to meet Mr Mundell and the Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling to discuss further concerns over the plans.

In a letter she states the proposals are “unacceptable”, although she acknowledges that Mr Mundell had defended them before the UK government conceded that they needed to be rethought.

Nevertheless, she believes this postponement offers an opportunity for “improvement”.

The letter highlights concerns about what she calls the “narrowness of the assessment of what relates exclusively to England, with the decision limited to whether the bill legally extends to Scotland, rather than taking into account the wider financial and policy implications.”

She says: “Of the 20 bills listed by the UK Government as not extending to Scotland, no fewer than 13 of them did. Several of these Bills covered important areas such as charities, criminal justice and anti-slavery measures and had significant impacts on Scotland, over and above the Barnett implications that might flow from legislation.

“No doubt the UK Government will be considering the assessment when preparing your legislation but the Scottish Government has a direct interest in how the UK Government makes a judgement as to whether it considers EVEL applies.”

250,000 homes ‘poorer’ after Budget cuts, says Sturgeon

Ms Sturgeon says Chancellor George Osborne’s cut to tax credits will leave 250,000 households in Scotland up to £1,000 a year worse off.

The figure chimes with research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which found three million Britons will be affected by the same sum because of the reduction in work allowances, or the amount that a claimant can earn before benefit is withdrawn.

The allowances were meant to be an incentive to move into work, but critics say the system has been abused by employers not paying appropriate wages and this helped persuade Mr Osborne to introduce the national living wage.

Ms Sturgeon, however, accused the Chancellor of targeting the poor and vulnerable while giving tax benefits to the better off.

An increase in the higher rate threshold for income tax will benefit individuals earning over £42,385 which applies to just 15% of Scottish income taxpayers.

Ms Sturgeon said: “These figures prove that the Chancellor is cutting disproportionately from the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society, short-changing those on low incomes and removing work incentives, whilst giving tax breaks to the better-off.”

The IFS last week said the biggest single cut to welfare spending comes from extending the freeze in working age benefits, tax credits and local housing allowance out to 2020.

“That will affect 13 million families who will lose an average of £260 a year as a result of this one measure,” said director Paul Johnson. After about 2017 this will mean that most benefit rates will have fallen back behind their 2008 levels both relative to price inflation and relative to earnings growth.

The next biggest cut comes from the reduction to work allowances in Universal Credit costing about three million families an average of £1,000 a year each.

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