Protecting Scottish Welfare is a matter for us all
As I said at the beginning of my speech, we are extremely fortunate that, thanks to devolution, we have an opportunity to alleviate some of the damage that the Tory Government – as that is what it is, in all but name - seems intent on inflicting upon the welfare state.
For over fifty years, the welfare state has been a cornerstone of British society; the safety net that prevents people falling through the cracks; the state’s benevolent hand that gently guides us through life, from “cradle to grave”. For the vast majority of us born in the United Kingdom, the first hands that touch us when we enter this world are the hands of the state.
Yet, in the space of two years and two bills, the Tories have taken a wrecking ball to our most cherished institutions.
To me, Wednesday’s debate represented what this Parliament and devolution stand for: the ability to do what is right by the people of Scotland. And, because I feel a sense of fellowship with people in England; because I recognise that we are strongest when we stand together and not apart, I deeply regret that they do not have similar recourse.
Although there is general agreement that the Bill is positive, it is little more than a gateway that allows for further legislation. It is what we do once we are through the gate that really matters. That is why all the proposals put forward under the Bill are subjected to long and detailed scrutiny by parliamentarians and public.
As well as placing all the provisions under the Welfare Reform Bill before the relevant committee, the Scottish Government must also consult as widely as possible, canvassing the opinions of local authorities and charitable organisations to ensure that their views, as well as those of the people they represent, are taken into account.
It is only by working together that we can defend ourselves against the worst excesses of the Tory Government.