THE UK Government needs to “wake up the zombie parliament” and devolve powers over the Welfare to Work programme to Holyrood immediately, a Scottish Labour MP has demanded.
While the leaders of the main Westminster parties have pledged to transfer more powers north after May’s general election, Ian Murray urged ministers to take speedy action over the Welfare to Work scheme.
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The Edinburgh South MP will present his Job Creation (Scotland) Bill in the House of Commons today, saying if this is backed it will bring into force a Section 106 order, which would devolve responsibility for employability programmes to Scottish Government ministers immediately.
Labour claims that just over a fifth (21 per cent) of people on the work programme in Scotland have moved into employment - adding that this performance is worse than all the regions in England.
In the city of Dundee just 15.8 per cent of people on the scheme are recorded as finding a job, the party said.
Labour is pledging that if the UK Government fails to hand control over the work programme to Scotland, it will do so immediately if it wins May’s general election.
It comes after the Smith Commission was set up to look at further devolution to Holyrood in the wake of last September’s independence referendum, in which voters north of the border opted to stay in the UK.
Mr Murray said: “The cross-party Smith Commission agreed that the job-creating powers of the work programme should be devolved to Scotland. Scottish Labour wants that to happen immediately - we shouldn’t have to wait for the election.
“The Tories’ work programme is failing Scotland.
“In some parts of Scotland it’s no better than doing nothing to find a job. Thousands of our young people have been unemployed for more than a year. It’s time we wake up the zombie parliament and devolve the job powers now.
“If Government ministers don’t take the action we want, we’ll do it immediately on forming a government after May. And Labour will deliver the Home Rule Bill for Scotland to Parliament in the first 100 days of the next government.”
Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, the SNP’s work and pensions spokeswoman, said: “The Work Programme has failed to meet its own targets, and has failed to help people facing real barriers to employment to find work.
“Transferring those powers to Scotland would allow us to tailor better solutions for local circumstances, and provide better support for those who find it hardest to access the labour market.
“A strong team of SNP MPs elected in May is the best way to bring these powers to the Scottish Parliament. When it is clear what is being devolved we will work with others including local government to secure the best service for those trying to get back into work.”