Thank you Convener.
And Good Morning Conference!
Can I begin this Morning by thanking Alison and all those involved in bringing forward this Motion - it is of the utmost importance and it is so welcome to see it on the Agenda.
Because we should never shy from the opportunity to highlight the deep seated inequality that exists in the UK. Conference, it is utterly unjust that in a country as rich as the UK, so many people are living in poverty.
We should all be concerned with the interim findings by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights following his fact-finding visit to the UK last year.
Conference. Let me be absolutely clear. Austerity - is - a political choice.
The Conservative’s ideological obsession with austerity will lead to billions of pounds being cut from social security spending in Scotland by the end of this decade. As the Motion articulates, the UK Government’s approach to welfare is “punitive, mean spirited and often callous”.
And of course, we know this. Because the UK Government have previous when it comes to the rights of those with disabilities and indeed their eventual approach to welfare. Conference. I am proud of our SNP Scottish Government and the work being undertaken by our Cabinet Secretary, Shirley Ann Somerville, to introduce a Social Security System that places dignity and respect at its core. It sits in stark and clear contrast to the actions of this cruel and callous UK Tory Government.
And - we - should never tire of calling out that difference and demanding change. Conference. The austerity agenda pursued by the UK Tory Government has caused poverty to soar. The Tories’ tax and welfare changes since 2010 are estimated to increase children living in relative poverty in Scotland by 8%. Conference, I see first hand in North Lanarkshire the impact of Tory Policy.
I see it in those impacted by Universal Credit changes. I see it in those who turn to food banks. And I see it in those families who struggle to get by and need help.
In North Lanarkshire, only with the help of the SNP have our Council been able locally to introduce Club 365; a holiday hunger programme.
What did the Conservatives do when it came to this issue?
They voted against.
Procrastinating asking for details and evidence to support the introduction.
We know children and families need our help; no evidence is needed for that.
Voting against a holiday hunger programme to feed our children and young people.
That says it all.
Our SNP Scottish Government will continue to do all it can to mitigate the worst impacts of the Tory UK Government Agenda; from the over £100 million being spent this year on welfare mitigation and measures to help protect those on low incomes and many other actions right across Government.
Our message however, should be loud and clear.
We - should not have to use our budget to paper over the cracks of the UK Government’s mistakes. Conference.
With Independence we can take charge of our own destiny, turn course from damaging Tory policies and deliver the change that we need to see for the people of Scotland.
Conference. A different Scotland is possible. It’s Time