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16/10/13 00:01

FM to tell PM: 'Scotland's people deserve better'

First Minister to highlight missed opportunities at Joint Ministerial Committee.

Scotland’s economy, and its young and vulnerable people in particular, are losing out on funding and opportunities as a consequence of Westminster decisions, First Minister Alex Salmond said today.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) in Downing Street, the First Minister raised concerns over the impacts in Scotland of UK decisions on youth employment, welfare reform and support for major events.

The First Minister will point to:

  • A failure by the UK to endorse the European Youth Guarantee which will constrain Scotland’s opportunities to support early interventions to get young unemployed people into work.
  • Analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies which suggests that 50,000 more children in Scotland will be living in relative poverty by 2020, as a consequence of UK Government welfare reforms including the bedroom tax.
  • Good causes in Scotland continuing to miss out on lottery funding diverted to support the London 2012 Olympics.

The annual plenary session of the Joint Ministerial Committee is attended by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The plenary meeting will also be attended by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and by Angela Constance, Minister for Youth Employment.

Speaking ahead of the meeting the First Minister said:

“We have consistently argued that decisions about Scotland should be taken by the people who live and work here.

“Today in Downing Street I will highlight the damaging impacts of the Coalition Government’s lack of commitment on youth employment; the bedroom tax and a continuing failure to reimburse lottery funding for good causes.

“We are doing all we can within current powers to support young people to move into the world of work.

“It is disappointing that the UK has failed to endorse the European Youth Guarantee which would help to support earlier interventions.

“This decision represents a missed opportunity, with the UK preferring to focus instead on a faltering Work Programme only available after a damaging and wasteful six months without work.

“The Scottish Government rejects the bedroom tax which penalises the poor and vulnerable in our communities.

“Over 82,000 households in Scotland are seeing housing benefit payments cut under the UK Government’s under occupancy rules and around 80 per cent of those are homes to disabled adults. Over 15,000 of those affected are families with children.

“Scotland has been short-changed on the only support available to us to help mitigate the impacts of the bedroom tax. Despite being home to 12 per cent of those affected, the Department for Work and Pensions has allocated less than nine per cent of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) here. In contrast the Scottish Government is doing all it can to support vulnerable households. We have added £20 million, the maximum permissible under current legislation, more than doubling the original DHP funding made available by the UK Government.

“Lottery funding of £114 million was diverted from Scottish good causes to help fund the 2012 Olympics. Although £90 million of that is expected to be returned over a number of years, Scotland’s charities and good causes have still to see a single penny of the money taken from them for London.

“Five years after first calling on the UK Government to reimburse Scotland’s good causes and one year ahead of Glasgow’s Games we are still waiting to find out whether that money will be returned in full. Charities and good causes, that every day help those most in need in our society, continue to lose out and they deserve better.

“In each of these cases we will press the Prime Minister to recognise Scotland’s case. I will push the UK to recognise Scotland’s ability to move further, faster and more effectively in supporting our young people into work. And I will call on the Coalition Government to reverse its damaging and divisive bedroom tax. I will ask the Prime Minister to explain when Scottish communities and good causes will see the return of money that is rightly theirs.

“In all of these cases it is clear that UK support for Scotland does not add up. Scottish Ministers are clear that Westminster policies have created an unequal and unbalanced economy, focused on London and the South-East of England.

“With the full powers of independence Scotland would have control over new economic levers that can be used to deliver fairness, opportunity and economic growth.”