CAS have responded to a Scottish Affairs Committee consultation on what their work should be during this parliament.
The Scottish Affairs Committee holds a central role in the UK Parliament, holding to account Government departments and ensuring that Scottish interests are considered. It also holds a crucial role as a bridge between the UK and Scottish Parliaments. In order to maximise the benefits of this role, the Committee must:
- Have an effective relationship with the Scottish Parliament and its Committees in order to best address issues of joint interest
- Hold meetings and visits in Scotland, to ensure that the work of the Committee is relevant and accessible to the communities that it is aiming to help
- Undertake a mixture of different meeting types, in order to widen its audience and to allow the greatest level of interest and input into its work.
There are a range of issues that the Committee could consider examining during this Parliament. For the purposes of this response, we have focused on three broad issues which we believe the Committee can have a positive influence on. These are:
Rural consumer issues
While consumers often face similar issues across the United Kingdom, consumers in Scotland can face different issues to their counterparts elsewhere. This is particularly true for the 1 million people who live in rural Scotland who often have fewer choices and may face higher prices for goods and services. These consumers can face detriment in a range of areas, including higher prices for food and fuel, disproportionate delivery charges, problems with transport access and cost, and slower internet speeds.
Scotland’s Citizens Advice Service is the most common external source of advice for employees who experience problems at work. In 2014/15 clients sought advice on 50,625 new employment issues, a number that has been increasing in recent years. This includes the growth in zero hours contracts, but also a wider trend of low pay and insecure work. The number of employment problems have increased continually following the introduction of fees in Employment Tribunals which are acting as a barrier to justice for many people.
Social Security changes
Welfare reform and benefit cuts have had a different impact in Scotland compared with other places in the UK. The £12bn cut in social security alongside the devolution of some powers in the Scotland Bill, may create a complex environment of changing entitlements and cuts in income. Analysis of the impact of benefit cuts in Scotland would therefore be a beneficial topic for the Committee to consider.