MSP hails passing of first part of new domestic abuse laws

MSP hails passing of first part of new domestic abuse laws

MSP Rona Mackay has called passing of the first part of a new domestic abuse bill “historic”.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1’s general principles were adopted by the parliament on Thursday September 29.

For the first time, psychological abuse will be classified as part of domestic abuse.

As the deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, Ms Mackay has worked to bring the general principles bill to parliament.

Ms Mackay said: “The new domestic abuse bill has two main purposes: to create a new offence of engaging in a course of abusive conduct against a partner or ex-partner; and to amend other procedural and evidential aspects of criminal law in relation to domestic abuse.

“It recognises the damage that psychological abuse can do and makes it a crime in its own right. It addresses a gap in the criminal law by allowing for domestic abuse convictions based on a course of conduct that includes psychological abuse, rather than on individual incidents.

“We all know that psychological and emotional abuse is just as painful as physical abuse. We might not see the bruises, but controlling and coercive behaviour eats away at the victim’s soul and self-esteem each and every day.

“The Justice Committee heard heart-breaking evidence, and I thank our witnesses for their immense bravery in telling us their stories so that others will not suffer in the way that they did.

“I am delighted the Bill has passed its first stage in the parliament, it really is a historic moment. I’m very much looking forward to seeing it through to becoming part of Scots Law.”

ENDS

FULL SPEECH:

Today is a historic day, because the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill will, for the first time, introduce provisions on psychological abuse into the repugnant crime of domestic abuse. The bill has two main purposes: to create a new offence of engaging in a course of abusive conduct against a partner or ex-partner; and to amend other procedural and evidential aspects of criminal law in relation to domestic abuse. It recognises the damage that psychological abuse can do and makes it a crime in its own right. It addresses a gap in the criminal law by allowing for domestic abuse convictions based on a course of conduct that includes psychological abuse, rather than on individual incidents.

We all know that psychological and emotional abuse is just as painful as physical abuse. We might not see the bruises, but controlling and coercive behaviour eats away at the victim’s soul and self-esteem each and every day. The Justice Committee heard heartbreaking evidence, and I thank our witnesses for their immense bravery in telling us their stories so that others will not suffer in the way that they did.

Domestic violence—physical and psychological—exists in all sections of our communities and at all levels of society. As we have heard, mental and emotional abuse includes threats, criticism of someone’s appearance and intellect, name calling, and controlling what someone does, their access to money, where they go, how they dress and who they speak to, among many other degrading control mechanisms. The cowardly abuser knows no bounds. They will threaten someone’s children and isolate them from friends and family—in effect, they will try to make them a non-person. It is all about control—control by fear.

The bill aims to tackle all forms of that vile crime. As we have heard, it has been welcomed by a wide variety of organisations, including Scottish Women’s Aid, the Law Society of Scotland, Children 1st and the NSPCC, to name but a few.

Children are the forgotten victims of domestic violence. The ways in which they can be harmed by domestic abuse extend further than simply witnessing abuse. The trauma is long lasting and far reaching. I am therefore delighted that the bill provides for a statutory aggravator for instances of partner abuse in which third parties—usually children—are involved. That aggravator was not part of the Scottish Government’s initial consultation on the bill but, as we listened to stakeholders such as children’s charities and women’s groups, it became clear that children needed to be recognised as major victims of such crime.

I have sympathy with the view among children’s organisations that abuse of children in domestic violence cases should be recognised in its own right, but the Government believes that the bill strikes the right balance and that major reform of the criminal law on the abuse of children is best considered separately. That law is under review, and I sincerely hope that that review will reflect the urgent need to recognise the devastating effect that domestic violence can have on children.

Another welcome measure in the bill is the requirement for courts to consider whether to impose non-harassment orders to protect victims. Scottish Women’s Aid believes that it is critical for NHOs to cover children, too, and that courts should be more willing to consider refusing contact for abusive parents. I agree, and I am pleased that the cabinet secretary is considering that. I am also pleased that emergency barring orders are being considered and that the cabinet secretary will enter dialogue with third sector organisations to consider that measure at stage 2.

There is not enough time to do justice to all aspects of this important bill—I agree with Kezia Dugdale that time is far too short—but I hope that, between members around the chamber, we have covered most of the salient points. The bill aims to expose the inadequate bullies who perpetrate controlling and coercive behaviour and to send a message to them that such behaviour will not be tolerated. For that reason, I am proud to recommend the general principles of the bill to the chamber.

Rona Mackay: Child footballer’s rights have been contravened

Rona Mackay: Child footballer’s rights have been contravened

As my colleagues on the Public Petitions Committee have said, this is one of the longest-running petitions in the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions system. It dates back to 2010. That fact alone, in my opinion, speaks volumes about the complexity of the issue; it also gives an indication of the intransigent nature of the hierarchy in Scottish football. The committee has tabled the petition 27 times. Its consideration has included discussions, the commissioning of reports and, on a number of occasions, the gathering of evidence from key people in Scottish football, ministers, the petitioners themselves and many other relevant stakeholders.

There are a number of issues involved in the petition, but the main issues of concern, which I will expand on, include the contractual arrangements between children under 16 years of age, professional clubs and the SFA, and, in particular, the social, educational and psychological effects and legality of clubs banning children from participating in extracurricular activities such as playing for their school team. It was only last year—six years after the petition was lodged—that the SFA lifted that ban, but there has been no monitoring of the situation, and even now many young people are still under the impression that they cannot play for their school team. Being banned from enjoying a more relaxed game of football with their friends has the effect of isolating the young players from their peers and restricting their participation in the game that they love. For many, the effect is also complete disillusionment with the sport, and they end up cutting all ties with football.

In addition, we must ask how appropriate it is for there to be compensation payments between SFA member clubs for the transfer of young players under 16. There are also questions around accountability in relation to the audit process, as well as accountability for the public funds that are held by the SFA and distributed to member clubs.

For me, child welfare is at the core of the petition. It is about children being used as commodities by male-dominated, top-down organisations that are intent on getting value for money and discovering the next Kenny Dalglish. The reality is that the organisations’ actions shatter the dreams of many young people, and in my opinion they are trading on that. They are the dream shatterers, not the dream catchers.

The many excellent, hard-working youth coaches with a desire to help young people throughout Scotland reach their potential and progress in the sport are in no way to blame. Two people with close family connections to me work in youth football coaching. I know that they do it because football is their passion, they genuinely care about the welfare of the youngsters in their charge and they do their utmost to help them realise their dreams. However, they are a world away from the men in suits in the SFA and the SPFL who run football in Scotland.

As we have heard from members across the chamber, the petition raises a number of other serious issues. A child who signs a registration form at age 15 can be held by the professional football club for three consecutive seasons, up to their 18th birthday. The operation of the compensation scheme has not changed and continues to cause concern, as payments between clubs have been made beyond the parameters of that scheme. In addition, contracts between professional clubs and 16 and 17-year-olds contravene minimum wage legislation, with some players being paid £1 per week. Last but not least, there is a lack of appropriate child protection checks being carried out on football agents who engage with children, as highlighted so powerfully by my colleague Clare Haughey.

In May of this year, the former children’s commissioner Tam Baillie—a staunch supporter of the petition, and someone who maintains a strong connection with the subject—sent a letter to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs informing it of the petition and the implications arising from it in respect of payments by professional football clubs in Scotland that contravene minimum wage legislation. He reiterated the concerns that the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier Football League have been intransigent with regard to change, and he told of the documentary evidence that has been produced that confirms that 16 and 17-year-olds have signed with professional football clubs for wages ranging between £1 and £10 per week.

In evidence to the Public Petitions Committee, Neil Doncaster, the chief executive of SPFL, stated:

“We do not have sight of the contracts between clubs and players. Effectively, eligibility to play in SPFL competitions arises from a Scottish FA registration. So, no, I did not have knowledge of any clubs paying £1 a week.”—[Official ReportPublic Petitions Committee, 22 December 2016; c 36.]

Even when it was brought to their attention, they failed to act. In response to a letter on the minimum wage from the petitioners, the SFA and SPFL stated:

“This area of legislation is complex, and it is not always apparent from a contract how many a player may be working in a relevant pay period.”

“The focus of both bodies is to ensure that players are paid the minimum wage rather than punishing clubs for non-compliance.”

I believe that that response proves that the football authorities are not prepared to find out where the minimum wage is not being paid and are not interested in finding out what is happening to young players in their stewardship.

It is true that during the petition’s lengthy passage, there have been some positive developments, such as the appointment by the SFA of a child protection officer and a children’s rights officer, and the introduction of some limited changes to children’s rights while they are signed to a professional football club. As the minister said, the Scottish Government has indicated a desire to work with clubs to address outstanding issues. However, due to the inactivity and intransigence of those who hold positions of power in the SPFL and the SFA, Tam Baillie is calling for legislation to address the matter, as we have heard.

The fact is that children under the age of 16 are being asked to sign contracts despite not having the legal power to do so. Many parents do not understand the small print of those contracts and, in any case, are so overwhelmed that their child is being given a chance to progress to professional football that they do not want to rock the boat and ruin their dreams.

The purpose of the petition is to expose the abuse of power and the control of children by professional football clubs in Scotland. To date, children’s rights have been contravened and football mandarins have adopted the approach that they are untouchable. That is simply not good enough. How many more years do we have to wait until that imbalance is kicked into touch? Let us hope that change is imminent.

MSP discusses East Dunbartonshire on Woman’s Hour radio show

MSP discusses East Dunbartonshire on Woman’s Hour radio show

MSP Rona Mackay has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to discuss why East Dunbartonshire topped the list of best places for women to live across Scotland, England and Wales.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP cited the closeness of the area to Glasgow, its accessibility to the countryside and great schools as local reasons.

Ms Mackay said: “It was great to be speaking on Woman’s Hour about why East Dunbartonshire is the best place for women to live across the whole of Britain.

“It’s a resounding achievement the Scottish Government, that two of the best areas, including East Renfrewshire, are in Scotland.

“I spoke about how on a national level, the SNP government has been promoting gender equality and helping women out of poverty with measures like expanding free childcare and the baby box.

“At a local level, we talked about the proximity of East Dunbartonshire to both Glasgow and the countryside, these are two very important factors in making this area so convenient.

“I told how our great schools are sending 97 per cent of leavers onto positive destination and how nationally, we’re seeking to improve all education by lowering the attainment gap.

“It was also important to point out the women of East Dunbartonshire do not all live well – we discussed pockets of poverty still do exist in our communities. It is important we remember this as we move on.”

ENDS

LISTEN: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b093hwcr#

 

Funding opportunities up for grabs at fayre hosted by MSP And MP

Funding opportunities up for grabs at fayre hosted by MSP And MP

KIRKINTILLOCH’S SNP parliamentarians have invited good causes to come to a funding fayre they have organised next month.

The Big Lottery Fund, Sportscotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Robertson Trust will be on hand with information about funding opportunities.

Rona Mackay MSP and Stuart McDonald MP organised the event for Monday October 2 at Hillhead Community Education Centre from 10am to noon.

Ms Mackay said: “There are so many amazing community groups and charities that Stuart and I have worked with which can benefit from our funding fayre.

“I consider it an opportunity for good causes to access funding that many might not have known they would be able to before, which would in turn help them fulfil their goals in our communities.”

Mr McDonald said: “Rona and I are very excited about this event, as it’ll give us the chance to meet with more local groups and help them get hooked up with some funding, that many desperately need.

“As a general principle, it is incredibly important that MSPs and MPs support the charities and good causes at work in their constituencies.”

ENDS

Rona Mackay: It’s time to blow the whistle on homophobia in sport

Last week I attended the cross-party group on sexual health and blood-borne viruses. There we heard a moving account from an HIV-positive woman who based her talk around the word “stigma”. The dictionary definition of the word is:

“a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”.

I believe that everyone in this chamber would agree that being gay should have no stigma attached to it. Sadly, despite Scotland being one of the most progressive nations in the world when it comes to LGBT+ equality, when it comes to sport, there is still much work to be done.

In sport, players face a disproportionately difficult time coming out, for a variety of reasons that are too complex to detail in a four-minute speech. Recently, Gareth Thomas, a Welsh rugby player with 100 caps, gave a grim account of his experiences of being a gay man in rugby. He believes that sport, and football in particular, must not be allowed to remain in the “dark ages” of homophobia. He says that unless homophobia in football is

“policed as stringently as racism is policed, then it will always be a problem”

…and I agree with him.

Recently, three former Rangers players started working with the excellent time for inclusive education campaign to clamp down on homophobia. Education is the key to changing attitudes and helping people to realise that it is simply not acceptable to perpetrate this inequality.

As we have heard, sporting events can also be unwelcoming and threatening environments for LGBT fans. Seventy per cent of sports fans in Scotland have witnessed anti-LGBT language or abuse in a sports setting in the last five years. Almost half of LGBT people—46 per cent—think public sporting events are not a welcoming space, and one in 10 who attended a live sporting event in the last year experienced discrimination. In 2017 that simply is not good enough.

Problems with racism, sectarianism and homophobia are taken seriously by the Scottish National Party Government, and our hate crime legislation exists to eradicate it. That is why the Scottish Government is concerned that an outright repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 might send the message that prejudice-based and threatening behaviour at football is acceptable, even when other legislation could also apply.

Stonewall Scotland supported the introduction of that bill in 2012, noting the serious impact that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic behaviour in sport has on LGBT people’s safety and on their confidence to participate in sport. Discrimination discourages participation and cultivates exclusion and a lack of diversity. Football and the sporting culture must not be left behind while the rest of society sees progress in equality. There is clearly a lot of work being done, with 13 clubs signed up to the Equality Network LGBT charter and more poised to do so, as we have heard.

Sportscotland believes that education, positive role models, embracing LGBT+ policies and promoting gay, lesbian and bisexual sports stars is the way forward, and that is the path that we should follow.

There is still a lot to be done and, until we need no longer debate this subject in the chamber, until it stops being a story, and until people wonder why someone’s sexual orientation is even being raised as an issue, we need to continue to strive for equality. It is time to blow the whistle on homophobia in sport.

MSP’s concern over Bishopbriggs Delivery Office closure

MSP’s concern over Bishopbriggs Delivery Office closure

MSP Rona Mackay has spoken of her concern over the planned shutdown of Bishopbriggs Delivery Office by Royal Mail.

Services would be integrated into the Kirkintilloch Delivery Office which would then serve all customers in the G64 area, the company has announced.

Royal Mail has entered talks with the Communications Workers Union (CWU) on the closing down of services in Bishopbriggs.

Ms Mackay, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, has arranged a meeting with the Director of External Relations for Royal Mail to hear more about the plans and to request that no redundancies are made if services are going to be moved.

She said: “This is what we feared when arguing against the privatisation of Royal Mail – one of the LibDem/Tory coalition’s worst crimes when they were in Government at Westminster.

“It is particularly disturbing to close a parcel depot when increased parcel delivery was cited as one of the main reasons Royal Mail increased its annual profits by 25 per cent in 2016/17.

“I have arranged a meeting with Royal Mail to ask for reassurance that no jobs are cut in closing down the Bishopbriggs Delivery office if this proposal goes ahead.”

ENDS

The Kirkintilloch Disaster victims remembered by MSP

The Kirkintilloch Disaster victims remembered by MSP

The 80th anniversary of the Kirkintilloch Disaster has been commemorated by the town’s MSP.

Rona Mackay, SNP MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, lodged a motion with the Scottish Parliament on Friday September 15.

On September 15 1937, 10 young men and boys from Achill Island on the West coast of Ireland died in a bothy fire on a Kirkintilloch potato farm.

The accommodation they were housed in was “not fit for cattle” and that lessons can still be learned by the tragic death in modern day Scotland.

Ms Mackay said: “It is so important that we remember the tragic Kirkintilloch Disaster where so many young men were killed.

“The bothy these Irish migrant workers were housed in was not fit for cattle, reports in the aftermath concluded.

“I was glad to commemorate this event with the Scottish Parliament 80 years on. I have done this both as a matter of respect for the dead and to serve as a reminder of the need to respect all workers and EU nationals as Brexit looms.”

ENDS

Motion Number: S5M-07719
Lodged By: Rona Mackay
Date Lodged: 15/09/2017

Title: Commemorating the Kirkintilloch Disaster

Motion Text:

That the Parliament commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Kirkintilloch Disaster; notes that, on 15 September 1937, 10 young men and boys from Achill Island on the west coast of Ireland died in a bothy fire on a Kirkintilloch potato farm; understands that their accommodation was described as “not fit for cattle”; believes that there are still problems unique to migrant workers in Scotland, and hopes that lessons can still be learned from the disaster when it comes to treatment and respect for all workers and EU nationals, particularly after Brexit.

Rona Mackay questions justice secretary on impact of shorter sentences on prison population

  • Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP): 

    What impact will the presumption against short sentences have on the Scottish Prison Service?

  • Michael Matheson: 

    The impact on the prison population of extending the presumption against short sentences to 12 months will depend on how sentencers choose to take it forward. For example, if there is a greater use of community sentencing, that could result in a reduction in the number of individuals who receive short-term prison sentences of less than 12 months.

    As we have moved to a presumption against sentences of less than three months, we have seen a reduction in the number of people who have received sentences of less than three months. It would be reasonable to anticipate that we will see a reduction in the overall prison population should more of our sentencers choose not to sentence someone to custody for less than 12 months and to make use of a community disposal instead. However, that will depend entirely on how our judiciary chooses to take it forward.

MSP supports Equal Protection for Children Bill on BBC show

MSP supports Equal Protection for Children Bill on BBC show

MSP Rona Mackay has made the case for a Bill which seeks to legislate against smacking children on the Victoria Derbyshire show.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP debated the matter with Mary Glasgow from Children 1st and Richard Lucas from the Scottish Family Party on the BBC morning show.

She said: “It was great to go on the Victoria Derbyshire show and make the case of why hitting children is never justifiable and can have long lasting effects in later life.

“I was delighted to hear strong evidential arguments from Mary Glasgow, a director of Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity. This Bill does not create a new offence, it removes the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ and ‘justifiable assault’ from the existing offence of common assault.

“The evidence against hitting children is overwhelming and I fully support this Bill.”

ENDS

From Rona Mackay MSP by Alan Ferguson

REPORT: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/research-reports/equally-protected.pdf

Background:

  • John Finnie MSP is proposing and has consulted on the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill
  • The First Minister said during the Programme for Government: “While it is not our proposal and indeed it may be an issue on which parties will give their members a free vote, the Scottish Government will not oppose John Finnie’s proposals to prohibit the physical punishment of children.”
  • The Bill proposes ending the existing common-law position that physical punishment by parents can be defended as reasonable chastisement and therefore be lawful. The Bill will not create a new criminal offence, as the common law offence of assault will apply International comparisons:
  • There are now 52 countries where physical punishment is unlawful, including France, Germany, Norway and Denmark
  • Sweden became the first country in the world to change the law in 1979, with one of the most recent being the Republic of Ireland, where the law was changed in 2015
  • The UK is now one of only 6 EU Member States, out of 28, not to have changed the law.

Current law:

  • The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 prohibited certain forms of physical punishment of children in Scotland (blows to the head, shaking, hitting with an implement)
  • The 2003 Act left room for parents and others caring for or in charge of children to plead a defence of “justifiable assault” under the existing common law.
  • In other parts of the UK, as is the case in Scotland, whilst there are restrictions on the physical punishment of children (largely by the 1998 ECHR ruling), there is no outright ban.
Grand roll-out of shambolic Universal Credit is ‘simply madness’

Grand roll-out of shambolic Universal Credit is ‘simply madness’

THE PLANNED accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit is “simply madness”, MSP Rona Mackay has said.

The new all-encompassing benefit’s pilot runs have been riddled with problems – prompting calls for a halt to the mass roll-out.

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work. It replaces six main benefits, including Housing benefit, Child Tax Credit, Income support, Working Tax Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance.

Ms Mackay joined the debate Support for Citizens Advice Scotland’s Call to Stop Accelerated Roll-out of Universal Credit on Thursday, September 7.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP said: “In my speech, I highlighted why the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit mustn’t be allowed to happen — and it is mostly due to how disastrous the pilot runs have been.

“Also, the words ‘Universal Credit’ are misleading and cruel because they give the illusion of something for everyone, whereas the reality is that it is anything but that. It’s just another means of the Tories imposing austerity.

rona speaking universal credit 2

“I referenced to when I was a former board member of East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, I was all too aware of the fears of the bureau’s staff before the implementation of the Universal Credit system. These fears have come true.

“People are sinking into poverty with having to wait six weeks for their first payment, forced to become indebted. The application can only be made online, which is a disaster for many disabled people, and on average claimants who spoke to CA have had to call the helpline ten times.

“Universal credit is emblematic of the bitter and cruel treatment of people under this UK Tory Government.

“Thankfully, the Scottish Government’s approach to shaping our own social security system could not be more different, even with the limited powers that we are receiving.

“In the name of humanity, will the Tories admit that the system is a disaster and stop the roll-out? To err is human, but to compound a mistake is simply madness.”

ENDS

From Rona Mackay MSP by Alan Ferguson (07342601722).

NOTES

Full speech:

I thank Alex Rowley for bringing this important and necessary debate to the chamber.

The words “universal credit” are misleading and cruel because they give the illusion of something for everyone, whereas the reality is that it is anything but that. Universal credit, which was introduced by the Tory Government at Westminster, is merely a euphemism for more Tory austerity. It is the continuation of the attack on our poorest citizens and part of the wider destruction of the UK social security system. It is the same attack on the welfare state that the United Nations has called a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.

I remind members what has happened in the attack so far. The Tories have cut £30 a week from the disability benefit employment and support allowance, hitting those who are unable to work; they have implemented the hated two-child tax credit limit, which takes money from low-income mothers and fathers who desperately need it; they have removed the family element of working tax credits, again hitting low-income parents hard; and they have locked young people aged 18 to 21 out of housing benefit. Those are just some of the measures that have been taken by the Tories.

Universal credit has got off to a terrible start, but it is to be radically extended this autumn. That extension must be delayed. As a former board member of East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, I was all too aware of the fears of the bureau’s staff before the implementation of the universal credit system. Those hard-working staff are on the front line and could foresee the misery that the system would cause to so many people who are already struggling to make ends meet every day. Sadly, their fears have been realised. With universal credit, benefits are paid in a lump sum, leaving many recipients unable to budget and increasing the risk of homelessness and food and fuel poverty.

East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau is one of five bureaux piloting the so-called full service universal credit. In those areas, there has been a 15 per cent rise in rent arrears, compared with a national decrease of 2 per cent. A lot of statistics have been mentioned today, but they are worth repeating. The phasing out of disability tax credits means that more than 110,000 disabled people who are in work are at risk of losing up to £40 a week. There has been an 87 per cent increase in crisis grant issues in the pilot areas, compared with a national increase of 9 per cent—just think about that. Two of the bureaux have seen increases in advice about access to food banks of 40 per cent and 70 per cent, compared with a national increase of 3 per cent. As we have discussed, 39 per cent of claimants waited for more than six weeks to receive their first payment. The six-week wait is deemed acceptable by the Tories, who evidently expect people to live on fresh air.

The fact that the application can be made only online makes the process even more shambolic. Disabled people are the group in society that is least likely to have internet access. It is estimated that 35 per cent of them do not have access to the internet. In comparison, more than 90 per cent of the non-disabled population have access to the internet.

Put simply, people are sinking further into deprivation thanks to a roll-out riddled with error, and the roll-out must be paused until key problems are addressed. No organisation would go ahead with a scheme that had failed so badly in a trial, but, as ever, the Tories will plough on with their disastrous policy regardless of the human cost.

Universal credit is emblematic of the bitter and cruel treatment of people under this UK Tory Government. Thankfully, the Scottish Government’s approach to shaping our own social security system could not be more different, even with the limited powers that we are receiving. In the name of humanity, will the Tories admit that the system is a disaster and stop the roll-out? To err is human, but to compound a mistake is simply madness.

Motion debated:

Support for Citizens Advice Scotland’s Call to Stop Accelerated Roll-out of Universal Credit

September 07, 2017 12:45

Duration: 1 hour 6 minutes 28 seconds

That the Parliament notes with concern the reported evidence from Citizens Advice Bureaux regarding the initial roll-out areas in Scotland, and elsewhere in the UK, which it believes highlights that the reality of universal credit risks leaving many people in Scotland without the support they need, pushing them into debt and leaving them unable to make ends meet; is further concerned that Citizens Advice Scotland, it understands, has reported that evidence from initial roll-out areas shows that, since universal credit was introduced, bureaux have seen a 15% rise in rent arrears issues compared to a national decrease of 2%, and an 87% increase in Crisis Grant issues compared to a national increase of 9%, and that two of the five bureaux in impacted areas have seen a 40% and 70% increase in advice about access to food banks, compared to a national increase of 3%; notes the call from Citizens Advice Scotland and a host of antipoverty organisations across Scotland for the UK Government to pause the accelerated roll-out of universal credit until the reported design and delivery problems have been addressed; notes the comments from the Chair of Citizens Advice Scotland, Rory Mair, that “universal credit has major delivery and design flaws which risk hurting families instead of helping them. These include long waits for payments that push people into crisis and debt, all the while battling a highly complicated process with little support”; considers that it is not right to proceed with the accelerated roll-out of universal credit in the knowledge that it will, it believes, result in tens of thousands of men, women and children in the Mid Scotland and Fife region and across Scotland being driven into debt and rent arrears and having to turn to foodbanks just to survive, and notes the calls on the UK Government to pause the process, listen to the evidence and act accordingly to address the issues.