SNP MP tables bill at Westminster - days after SNP voted it down at Holyrood

The SNP have come under fire, after Dr Philippa Whitford MP put forward a bill to split universal credit payments, just days after the SNP voted it down in Holyrood. 

Whitford’s private members bill aims to overcome the dangers posed by single bank account payments for Universal Credit for women. However, the exact same policy was rejected by her colleagues when they voted down a Labour amendment just days ago at Holyrood. The Department of Work and Pensions insist that split payments can be requested, but women’s organisations have pointed out that by making the split payments request-only, domestic abuse victims are unlikely to risk following through.

Scottish Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said: “Labour wants to see the new social security powers of the Scottish Parliament used to ensure universal credit payments are split between both adults, to help protect women and children, automatically. Making separate payments the norm has overwhelming support from across civic Scotland – and that is why it is even more extraordinary the SNP voted against it. On International Women’s Day, SNP Social Security Minister Jeanne Freeman needs say whether she backs Philippa Whitford’s plan, and spell out when our new powers will be used.”

If the problem in question is that it was a Labour amendment, rather than the policy itself, that is troubling. Nevertheless we can hope that the SNP - long famed for their internal discipline - will now do an about-face and introduce the policy in Scotland too. A similar situation occurred over a bill to introduce opt-out enrolment on the Organ Donation register. Let us hope that the SNP can swallow their pride and move ahead with this bill at Holyrood. The priority must be the policy change.

The rejected amendment also included a £5 weekly top-up of child benefit in the same amendment, on the grounds that ‘£7 out of every £10’ would go to those not in poverty. Clearly the case for universalism must be made again.

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