19/09/2012 Newsnight Scotland


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contempt? OK. That is your opinion. Tonight on Newsnight Scotland,


could an independent Scotland of orders benefits bill? The Work and


Pensions Secretary claims not, as he got a point? And is the


government to secretive? The Information Commissioner seems do


think so. Good evening. When the man in


charge in the UK's benefit systems in this morning that an independent


Scotland would not be able to afford his welfare bill the


reaction from the SNP was ferocious. A fence of said Alex Salmond. The


Work and Pensions Secretary had claimed Scotland received a six %


more per person in welfare payments compared to the rest of the UK. Not


unreasonable says the First Minister after all we pay more in


taxes. Towns like this one are still trying to recover from the


loss of traditional industries such as shipbuilding. While they have


made some progress moving towards the service sector, manufacturing


is 40% down on where it was in 1999. A lot of people remain dependent on


welfare. Things are set to get tougher. The government is aiming


to take �10 billion out of the welfare budget and two-thirds of


that is made up of spending on pensioners and they are not been


touched. It is another third for the cuts will hit and that includes


the likes of those on incapacity benefit and the disabled. People


like Henry Sherlock, registered blind and suffering from heart


disease and depression who gave evidence to the committee yesterday.


Been judged, it is like doing a crime and that is what it feels


like. I am not a criminal. I am a human being who needs additional


support. If Scotland was independent, what would happen to


welfare? The work and pension secretary in Scotland today said


the present arrangement in the union means that Scotland it's a


good deal and independence would mean either a higher taxes are


welfare cuts. A simple question, he just needs to answer because they


think the Scottish people need to know. There is more spending in


Scotland on welfare than in other parts of England, how were you


going to cover that gap? The First Minister in London for a meeting


with the Prime Minister was quick to respond. The number of people


employed in Scotland is greater than in the UK as a whole. The


number of people are economically inactive in Scotland is lower than


the UK average. I am not sure if Iain Duncan Smyth is aware of this


but perhaps he should go for he comes to Scotland again and repeats


such self-evident nonsense. The SNP in says that an independent


Scotland would be in a relatively good position regarding its ability


to pay the welfare bill. Be savoured across the UK social


protection as a percentage of total revenues was 43% in 2010 and 42% in


2011. In Scotland, the Social Protection Bill was 42% in 2010 and


40% in 2011. Look at the figure from another angle and there are


some potential concerns, especially when you look at the figures are


based on Scotland's population as a percentage of the UK currently


around 8.3%. In 2011, 7.8% of housing benefit was spent in


Scotland the low population share partly because of higher rental


costs in London. Take disability living allowance, Scott's account


for 11% of that budget and it is a similar story with incapacity


benefit, 11.3% coming from north of the border. In March, Nicola


Sturgeon told the SNP conference that independence would allow the


Scottish government to combat poverty and maintain spending.


only real independence will give us the tools that we need to rid


Scotland of the poverty and deprivation that still scours our


nation. What could an independent Scotland actually afford? It all


depends on revenues and that is the subject of intense debate, not


least because about what we get back from North Sea oil and gas.


think it is very difficult to avoid welfare cups with that one of two


measures. Either it will be necessary to increase taxes or


alternatively to raise more taxes through greater prosperity. It can


be done. If you begin with the idea that you are having a constant


level of benefit that the level of benefit to be had at the moment is


the right one and you want to try and protect a particular group or


improve the circumstances of a particular group, then it needs to


come from somewhere because you have captured the Budget. This is a


complex debate but ultimately it boils down to a political argument


and the question of who you believe. The uncertainty is that in places


were for one reason or another welfare has become a way of life,


things are set to get tougher. We could not persuade a Scottish


government Minister to come on the programme but we are joined by a


Eilidh Whiteford who speaks on welfare must the -- matters at


Westminster. She is in Aberdeen and I am joined in the Glasgow studio


by the Labour MP Willie Bain it. Thank you for joining us. Can we


begin with you, Iain Duncan Smyth asked the question of the SNP which


is if you want to maintain well there, you need to put taxes up or


cut other services. Which is it? think the reality is that it has


become very clear throughout today that welfare would be more


affordable in an independent Scotland. If you look at our


spending on social protection over the last five years you see clearly


that we are spending and lower proportion of our revenues and a


low proportion of our GDP on social protection than on the UK as a


whole. I think this is a distorted debate and I just wish we to be


having a serious discussion. When you talk of social protection that


includes things like pensions which is a large chunk of that. If you


look at benefits, when it comes to disability living Alan's and


incapacity there is 11% compared to a population share of 8.3%. Some


benefits are very expensive aren't they? That is true. We know we have


long-term problems with health in Scotland. We have at a lower life


expectancy and I do not think there is a quick solution. Interestingly,


we are already seeing evidence that the smoking ban a few years ago is


already having positive impacts on people's health and I think it is


important that we continue to try and help people get better health


so that we do not have to make unnecessary spending in those areas.


At the end of the day, Scotland is contributing 9.6% of the revenues


to the UK Exchequer on the basis of an 8.3% population. We are getting


out of that 9.3% so we're actually putting in more than we are getting


at. What were then - and will bother spending go at it that the


SNP were in charge in Scotland? would not be asking disabled people


to pay for a recession that has not have their own making. They think


the other thing you would not see his massive Cup's to the benefits


facing disabled people and working families. I think whatever


political complexion of the government was in Scotland we would


not be seeing are the kind of welfare cuts and the assault on


disadvantaged people that we have seen over the last few months in UK


government. This is a limb or hypothetical, so let us start off


with some basics. Would there be a Scottish Labour Party in an


independent Scotland? We are hoping to win the referendum. What would


happen if Scotland was the Independent? We're hoping to win it.


We will play a vital role in this got there - a Scottish government


in 2016. Those who are against independence make arguments based


on what would happen in Scotland were independent so that is what


this discussion is about. Do you agree with the Work and Pensions


Secretary that benefits would have to be cut or taxes would have to


increase? Let us talk money. In Scotland we have �1,122 extra


spending per head of population and the rest of the UK. That is right


because we are part of the fiscal and welfare Union and that is


delivered since 1999 until 2000 and make. Fiscal transfers would not


have happened if we had been a separate state. That is the benefit


of actually been part of the fiscal union. If we separated off and had


economic model and that she wants us to follow, taking decisions on


tax - maggots taxing and borrowing on a different place unfortunately,


as a researcher found, it means higher government borrowing costs


and that means lower spending for higher taxes. We that also mean


that your constituents who, if they feel they are going to suffer as a


result of the coalition's reforms, are finding that a government they


did not vote for it is taking decisions that they perhaps to not


approve of and therefore as they are represented as, does not make


sense that you would rather those decisions were taken closer to


those constituents rather than in London? What they are saying to me


is trying to bring in a system of running an economy and that would


be for keeps, not just for it two Partners, for keeps, that brings in


the worst elements of what went wrong in the Eurozone, would be a


disaster, a disaster for disabled people who rely on government for


welfare. Could you respond to that? I am really disappointed, actually


from Willie Bain who comes from a constituency with one of the


highest unemployment rates in the whole of the UK. The best way to


get people off benefits is to create job opportunities. You


cannot do that if you have at a stagnating economy and you are


failing to invest and stimulate that economy to create jobs. Alex


Salmond was in London today and he was trying to get money for


projects that the Scottish government has ready to go to


stimulate the economy and create jobs. That is the fundamental way


to get people off the unemployment. You disapprove of the secretary's


reforms. We to reform welfare in any way? Will, I think there are


lots of ways they can be reformed. For a start, the biggest problem


with the welfare system up to now has been the disincentives for


people who want to go back to work. That is where the secretary and I


agree. I think what we have seen over the past few months, I am


having it in my constituency, his people who are very manifestly not


able to work, who have been categorised as fit for work but


have absolutely no realistic Do you agree with that point, that


reform needs to happen? Firstly we need to get people into work and


under this First Minister there are 21,000 more children being brought


up in a household where nobody is working. Alex Salmond might have


been in London today but SNP Members of Parliament were not


doing their job in the House of Commons, calling for capital


spending to be brought forward. If Eilidh Whiteford, gear if us want


tough decision the SNP would make on welfare. At the toughest


decision is to vote for parties who would acknowledge that people need


support. There is no quick or easy way to do it but unless we take


those decisions we were not get anywhere. Thank you both very much


for joining us. . One and in charge of enforcing


Scotland's freedom of information laws sees her job as being made


more difficult by the weight public services are run. --. Woman in


charge. In her annual report the Information Commissioner expresses


concern about so-called arm's- length organisations working for


councils. The new information commissioner


for Scotland echoes some of the concerns of her predecessor. She


notes that more and more people are making Freedom of Information


request, perhaps as a result of economic circumstances, and that


public organisations have fewer and fewer resources to answer them.


What's more, a rising number of appeals have been by ordinary


citizens against decisions by local government. Ceases her ever-growing


concern is that public services are increasingly provided by what she


describes as aren't lense -- buy arms length organisations who why


not subject to freedom of information law.


Any of us can write to any organisation but freedom of


information do so us an enforceable right. -- gives us. Joining me now


from Bunt -- Dundee is Kevin Dunion, who was Scotland's freedom of


information commissioner until earlier this year. One question I


posed in the short film was, his freedom of information legislation


failed? It has been a great success, not only the amount of information


being disclosed but also the fact that many public authorities are


extremely comfortable with disclosing information. I think at


the police forces, which have been transformed in their culture in


terms of how prepared they are to give information in Scotland. That


challenge, really, is that it does demand but the authorities to


invest in having freedom of information officers and record


management and one of the successes of my successor is that it is clear


from the statistics that a number of the appeals come and Ford are


because authorities are simply not responding to Freedom of


Information request atoll and really they should not be happening.


Doesn't that reflect on the fact that the culture may have changed


in some public authorities but not across the public sector in


Scotland? It is difficult to know. One thing we can see but -- is that


in the last year the number of appeals coming to the Commissioner


has increased by 25 %. In the case of the Scottish government, by


almost 100 %. We don't know if that is because there has been a


significant spike in the number of requests or because of failings at


the front line in terms of not responding appropriately. What is


clear, however is, -- however, is that the public are prepared to


appeal and that in about two-thirds of cases they will get some or all


of the information they wanted. issue which has not yet been


resolved is these arm's-length organisation so -- organisations.


That is not going to change. How concerned are you about that?


hope it eventually is going to change. I don't understand why the


Government is dragging its feet. It says it wants to wait until that


current amendment bill goes through Parliament but that should go


through quite soon and it is quite an agreed bill. It is no reason to


hold back designating these arms length organisations. Some 130, 140


have been set up by local authorities, like the private


prisons providing prison services in places like Kilmarnock, which


should be in the scope of legislation. In England they are


getting on with it and doing something about bringing the Law


Society and the Local Government Association within the scope of the


Act. For some reason the government has not been enthusiastic about


getting on and addressing an agenda which is this government more


secretive than past administrations at Holy Rood? I don't think it is


any more secretive than its predecessors. I think one of the


great mysteries that I have to confront, dealing with this


Amendment Bill, is that the government in Scotland is intent on


being as secretive as the UK government in terms of giving us


absolute extension to the Queen and Prince Charles so any releases --


anything relating to the monarch and the heir to the throne.


Yesterday there was a tribunal in England with three judges which


ruled that a journalist should be given information in request -- in


respect of civil information requests regarding Prince Charles


and they said but essentially the public interest in knowing on what


issues and when Prince Charles was advocating and lobbying the


government should be disclosed. That is going to be closed off if


the amendment which the Scottish government is pushing him go


through. Thank you for joining us. Tomorrow's front pages now. The


Scotsman, ministers warning on welfare bill deficit. They herald,


benefits far older Scots tearing society apart. Let's finish with a


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 41 seconds


musical interlude. There was plenty of September


sunshine today and there will be much less tomorrow a. Quite a wet


day for Northern England, southern Scotland and Northern Ireland. Just


11 degrees in Newcastle. Further south temperatures are a bit higher


and we will get sunshine coming through in places. It will feel


reasonably pleasant when the sun comes through and the winds are


fairly light. A fine afternoon across south-west England, across


Wales Act -- affair bitter of cloud. North Wales prone to patchy rain. -


- a fair bit of cloud. The rain is persistent across the central belt


of Scotland but northern Scotland, another bright spot. Thursday, but


rather cloudy, wet day for the northern parts of the UK. Southern


parts, generally dry for Thursday. On Friday, the weather front that


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