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Thursday, 28 June 2012

People in Scotland believe that how much welfare and benefits people can claim should be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, new research has found.

An Ipsos Mori poll commissioned by the Future of Scotland civil society campaign has found that more than half of Scots support more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The main power that Scots would like to see come to Scotland is control over welfare and benefits, with 67 per cent of people surveyed calling for devolution in this area.

It comes as David Cameron this week unveiled new Tory plans for more dramatic cuts to welfare and benefits, following the next General Election.

His proposals include scrapping housing benefit for people under 25 and varying the rates of benefits depending on where people live.

However as the Scottish Parliament this week set to agree a bill to mitigate some of the dramatic cuts to benefits that have already been agreed by the coalition government, civil society leaders said the public had lost confidence in Westminster over welfare.

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), a member of the Future of Scotland campaign said: “With 82 per cent of UK welfare cuts still to come, people clearly think that Scotland could do a better job of welfare itself.

“It’s an even bigger priority for people than having responsibility for tax and the economy, which 57 per cent of people supported.

“As the Scottish Parliament grapples with how to mitigate the devastating impact cuts will have on families and vulnerable people across Scotland, it’s time for the people who will be affected by the changes to be given a voice, and for that voice to be heard.”

The poll follows a separate Ipsos Mori poll released earlier this month that highlighted just 35 per cent of Scots in favour of independence.

The new research also found that the majority of Scots believe politicians could do more to help ordinary Scots voices be heard on the issue of the independence referendum in 2014.

More than 70 per cent of people said that politicians are currently not encouraging the public to get involved in the debate about Scotland’s future.

Robin Parker, President of the National Union of Students Scotland, said: “Clearly we still have a long way to go to make students, young people and other segments of society feel part of the debate about Scotland’s future.

“Although we don’t have a view on more powers in Scotland, it’s clear that politicians need to set out how they will make all the options for Scotland’s future available to the people of Scotland. The politicians need to listen to the overwhelming majority of Scots who feel shut out of the debate, and put forward their vision of a post-referendum Scotland.”

Although the political lobbies on both sides of the debate are currently backing a single yes/no question in the referendum, 56 per cent of Scots said they would support a second question, while only 42 per cent want a single question.

Also, 68 per cent of people said they want to have a wider debate about Scotland’s future considering all possible alternatives. The poll found that the top five most important issues facing Scotland today are thought to be the economy (51 per cent), unemployment (21 per cent), education (21 per cent), public spending cuts (20 per cent) and Scottish independence (16 per cent).

John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said it is not surprising that Scots believe welfare should be central to the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future.

“Independent forecasts show tens of thousands more children set to be plunged into poverty in the coming years.

“Wherever powers end up lying those powers need to be used to ensure that the current ‘slash and burn’ approach to financial support for families, whether in or out of work, is replaced by investment in a system of social protection that treats people with dignity, protects families from poverty and enables all our children to participate fully in Scotland’s future.”

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