Poverty and Wealth Essay

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Poverty and wealth
Scottish Socialist Party Election manifesto 2011
In a devolved Scotland the SSP is committed to implementing the following:
■ A new income-based Scottish Service Tax to replace the Council Tax.
■ The scrapping of domestic water charges, with household water financed via the Scottish Service Tax.
■ Special funding to enable Scotland’s 32 local authorities to recruit and train a team of welfare rights workers with special responsibility for identifying and assisting people who are failing to receive benefits to which they are entitled.
■ An expansion of locally-based money advice centres and credit unions.
■ A change in debt legislation to remove the threat of eviction and house repossession.
■ The extension of concessionary travel to carers.
■ The establishment of a cross-party working group, which would involve people affected by poverty and antipoverty organisations, to address poverty and inequality in Scotland.

We will also campaign for the following measures, which are not within the Scottish Parliament’s powers:
■ A basic state pension of £160 a week and the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings.
■ Restoration of benefits to 16 and 17 year olds.
■ The restoration of lone parent benefits slashed by Westminster.
■ A progressive tax system which will increase the top rate of taxation and reduce the tax burden on those on low incomes.
■ An overhaul of disability benefits to remove means testing.
■ The increase of all benefits by £30 a week with subsequent annual increases in line with inflation.
■ The regulation of banks and building societies to outlaw the practice of charging customers to access their own money, and charging customers who exceed their agreed overdraft limit, with refunds backdated five years.
■The protection of public sector pension schemes.
■ Carers Allowance to be replaced with the national minimum hourly wage rate.

■ Rigorous new laws to prevent big business avoiding legitimate taxation.
■ A new corporate tax regime which forces Scotland’s most profitable companies to pay their fair share of taxation, at least to Nordic levels.
■ A two tier VAT system, with luxury goods taxed at 20 per cent and VAT on all other goods reduced from 20 per cent to its 1979 level of 8 per cent.
■ Public ownership of North Sea oil with the profits used for the benefit of the people rather the profiteers.
■ A socialist Scotland that will stand up to the forces of neo-liberalism and the free market.

Too poor to stay warm
Scottish government figures released this month showed 569,000 Scots households living in fuel poverty. The number has doubled since 2002.
Fuel poverty campaigners have reacted angrily to the news and attacked the failure of repeated government "initiatives."
They point to the fact that hese latest figures are for the year 2006-7 and do not take account of the gas and electricity price rises of the last 12 months.
In 2002, 13 per cent of Scots households endured fuel poverty, which is defined as those spending 10 per cent of their income on keeping warm. By 2007, this had leapt to 24.6 per cent.
Households now paying more than 20 per cent of their income on gas and electricity, a category that housing charity Shelter defines as people living in "extreme fuel poverty," now number 163,000.
Across Britain, the picture is much the same. Energy Watch estimates that 5.5 million households in Britain are living in fuel poverty.
With average combined gas and electricity bills now more than £1,300, it concludes: "There are millions of families who do not have that kind of money."

The question is, will the power companies try to disconnect those families unable to pay such sums this winter?
These are the circumstances behind the Scottish Socialist Party's decision to organise a day of action across Scotland on Saturday to draw attention to this intolerable situation. We will be campaigning on the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh,