INDEPENDENCE is the only way to bring about a “socially just Scotland”, Shona Robison told SNP members.

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government set out the “tale of two governments” in her speech to the SNP virtual conference.

Comparing the UK Government and the Scottish Government, Robison said simply: “They don’t care. We do.”

Robison pointed out that to “mitigate every cut the Tories make”, Scotland needs the full powers of independence.

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She said: “To bring about a socially just Scotland, we need independence and we need the SNP. The Conservatives in Westminster and Holyrood don’t want to make our country a greener, better, fairer place for us to live and work.

“The SNP do. Labour will wring their hands but don’t want us to have the powers to make the changes we want to see.

“Despite their manifesto in May saying they wanted the Parliament to have powers over employment, in June, they refused to join us in sending a letter to the UK Government to urge them to do just that.

“I want our national parliament to have the powers to tackle the drivers of child poverty.

“I want our Parliament to be able to raise the minimum wage to the real living wage and stop insecure employment.

The National:

Robison opened the final day of the virtual SNP conference with her speech

“I want our Parliament to have the full powers over social security to tackle inequality and treat people with respect and dignity.

“I want us to have the normal borrowing powers of any country.

“Which is why we need independence. And I believe people will look at what we can do with the powers of a normal independent nation and realise that is how we can create a fairer, more equal, stronger Scotland.”

Robison also told delegates that the SNP government was introducing progressive policies, including the £520 annual Bridging Payments, which will provide immediate support to around 150,000 children and school aged youngsters.

She continued: “Another bold and radical area of action is establishing a Minimum Income Guarantee which has the potential of transforming poverty and inequality to ensure everyone has enough to live a dignified life.

“I’ve already established an expert group and we had our first meeting to start the process.

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“That is not all we are doing. Following our election win in May, we have hit the ground running with our aspirations for a fairer greener more equal society. We have a raft of measures to tackle poverty and supporting our most vulnerable.”

Robison also set out what the SNP plan to do with the Scottish Parliament's devolved powers over social security – such as replacing the £25 Cold Weather Payment.

She said: “Therefore we will bring stability and security to this payment by introducing a new annual £50 Winter Heating Payment specifically for low income households currently eligible for Cold Weather Payments.

“This will be an investment of £20 million every year to support 400,000 eligible households who will no longer have to hope it becomes cold enough for long enough to get help with their fuel bills.

“And we will introduce another brand new benefit too. The Care Experienced Grant of £200 a year to support young care experienced people between the ages of 16 and 26.

“A decade of support for around 50,000 young people who don’t have support that so many take for granted as they start higher education, enter the workplace, or seek to start their first home.”

Robison also set out the Scottish Government’s target to deliver 110,000 affordable new homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be for social rent, and 10% will be in remote, rural, island communities.

Closing her speech, Robison said: “The actions that I set out are just a few examples of the work being carried out in my social justice portfolio.

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“They are more than providing practical help to those who need it most. They are an expression of our values and of the fairer more equal society we want to create.

“And when it comes to the next independence referendum we can ask the people of Scotland: what do you want for your country?

“Who do you trust to deliver social justice, social security and our social contract, as we look to recover from Covid and support all the people of our country?

“A callous Tory Westminster government led by Boris Johnson and his cronies, or an SNP Government with the full powers of a normal nation to bring about the independent, progressive, stronger, greener and fairer country we all seek.”