Thanks for the benefit of your wisdom, Boris

THE Scottish Government is concerned about its ability to be ready to implement and manage the raft of welfare reforms coming from Westminster.

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The Department of Work and Pensions it seems, is not forthcoming with sufficient details of how the changes will work to allow Holyrood to put its plans in place.

Cue another row, as the Deputy First Minister sets up her panel to look at a welfare state in an independent Scotland.

It is a worry for ministers but nothing to the worry that the families who will lose out are experiencing.

If we need proof that some politicians are completely out of touch then we need look no further than Mayor of London Boris Johnson and his attempt at justification of his party's cut to family allowance.

He said the cash, amounting to £50,000 over 20 years for his brood, was not needed and could have gone on fine wine and skiing holidays.

After his 'man of the people' act last summer, dancing at the Olympics and dangling on a wire waving flags we get to see the real Boris again, backing cuts that hit those on the lowest incomes.

Because Bullingdon Boris can do without family allowance doesn't mean others, earning a decent income, but nowhere near his millionaire league, can. It certainly doesn't mean the overall Government attack on lone parents, disabled people and low paid workers is justified.

If they want to reduce the welfare bill, why not try creating jobs and tackling low pay?

These changes are coming, some will be mitigated by Holyrood, such as council tax benefit cuts but others won't, making it an issue with implications for the independence referendum.

The welfare state is a key area where Westminster takes the decisions and Holyrood has to lump it.

But Westminster doesn't have a great record in recent history, particularly on unemployment benefit. Since 1979, when Jim Callaghan left office, two Tory and two Labour Prime Ministers and one Coalition later, the value of unemployment benefit has halved.

It was worth one fifth of the average wage 30 odd years ago, now it is one tenth.

Job Seekers Allowance for a single person under 25 is now worth £56 a week. For a couple 18 and over it is £111.45.

Should they wish to live like Boris and blow their benefits on booze, they need to 'scrounge' another £28.50 just to share a bottle of Dom Perignon at his favourite Islington restaurant.

n Don't miss Stewart Paterson's interview with Alistair Darling on the independence debate – in tomorrow's Evening Times

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