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Smith Commission fell short on poverty powers, MSPs told

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​Campaigners tell MSPs of Smith's Commission's failure to devolve powers to tackle poverty

Scotland has missed its opportunity to address inequality and poverty, a Holyrood committee has heard.

The Devolution Committee on more powers at the Scottish Parliament heard from campaign groups including the Poverty Alliance, One Parent Families Scotland, Inclusion Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations.

They told MSPs devolution of welfare and benefits doesn't go far enough and leaving Westminster in charge of social security will leave hundreds of thousands in poverty.

Peter Kelly of the Poverty Alliance said the power to create new benefits was useful in allowing the Scottish Parliament to address uniquely Scottish issues.

In a written statement to the committee he said: "It was very disappointing that working age benefits were not devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

"The limited powers over Universal Credit as welcome but as long as the punitive sanctions regime continues, we can expect to see growing levels of poverty.

In work poverty is one of the biggest growing issues in Scotland - Peter Kelly

"In work poverty is one of the biggest growing issues in Scotland. Currently, almost two thirds of children in poverty are in a household where someone works. The devolution of the National Minimum Wage could have been an important tool in the fight against in work poverty and it is disappointing that the Smith Commission report did not recommend this."

The inability to control the sanction regime – where people have their payments halted for apparent infringements – was a major issue among campaigners with many believing this draconian action against the most vulnerable was pushing many to the edge.

Satwat Rehman of OPFS said: "Many single parent families we are dealing with are subject to sanctions.

“They are often misapplied by advisers who are not aware of the flexibility they can apply for single parents.

“Or they are aware and they still impose sanctions which many are overturned on appeal but meantime people have to live on very little and rely on food banks."

And Mary Taylor of the SFHA said her organisation found "more tenants have been sanctioned since our last report if we updated the figures. The whole of social security should be devolved."

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, who sat on the Smith Commission and is a member of the Scottish Parliament's Devolution Committee, said: "This evidence from organisations from across Civic Scotland shows just how far short the Smith Commission plans fall.

"People in Scotland want - and were promised - extensive new powers and instead the Westminster parties have offered the bare minimum.

"While the powers set out in the Smith Commission are welcome, it's clear that we need to go much further to meet the aspirations of Civic Scotland and of the Scottish people as a whole."