The National:

A RESOLUTION was passed almost unanimously by members at the SNP conference yesterday, calling on the UK Government to scrap plans to cut the £20-per-week uplift in Universal Credit which was introduced at the start of the pandemic.

Listening to the SNP’s work and pensions spokesperson David Linden and pensions spokesperson Amy Callaghan speak about the dire impact this decision will have on the nearly 500,000 affected households in Scotland, about the poverty it will inflict, the foodbank use it will drive up, and the 200,000 children who will suffer as a result, I was struck by the strange situation in which Scotland finds itself.

Our party of government in the Scottish Parliament of over 14 years, with the highest share of the constituency vote since devolution and 45 out of 59 of Scotland’s MPs at Westminster, can vote at its national conference to condemn a policy, yet it has about as much power to change it as I have the power to change the weather. And last time I checked, it’s still dull, still hot, and I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight unless an aircon system has been miraculously installed.

In many ways, this puts SNP MPs in a similar boat to the vast majority of Scottish voters, charities, activists and academics — all of whom have spent the last decade howling at the moon about the Tories’ deeply damaging austerity agenda, only to see things go from bad to worse.

READ MORE: SNP conference: Resolution to make Tory Universal Credit uplift permanent passes

None of this is to say that the SNP shouldn’t be talking about these injustices and, as David Linden put it, “fighting tooth and nail” to change them. Somebody has to speak for the people who are struggling to put food on the table, who are going without so their children can have the happy, healthy childhood they deserve, and who are being pushed to the point of mental collapse under the strain of poverty and the misplaced shame that comes with it.

If anyone should be ashamed, it’s the six Scottish Tory MPs and Conservative MPs in the UK who are willing to sit back and say nothing as their own constituents have a lifeline pulled out from under them at a time when so many are struggling with the reverberating effects of the pandemic. A pandemic which, in case it needs pointing out, is still ongoing.

The people who lost out most financially from Covid-19 were those who were already on the lowest wages and in insecure work, and it will be the very same people who will suffer most from the decision to reverse an “uplift” which simply brought social security levels up to a liveable standard.

But under the worldview presented by the Tories, people who can’t afford to heat their homes or get the bus to a doctor’s appointment only have themselves to blame. As Amy Callaghan said, there has been a “concerted effort by the likes of Boris Johnson to stigmatise claimants”.

In their minds, being plunged into destitution is just the sort of character building the common people need to teach them the value of a day’s work. Never mind that 40% of Universal Credit claimants are working, or that the people enacting these policies have had every opportunity in life handed to them by virtue of who their parents were and what school they paid for them to go to.

The single greatest con committed by the right wing in this country has been convincing people to direct their anger at people claiming hundreds of pounds in benefits, as opposed to the people evading millions in tax or taking up six figure jobs for corporate lobbyists who they just happened to help out while they were in elected office.

This is why it’s not an option for Scottish opposition MPs to just pack up and go home, anymore than it’s an option for charities to stop campaigning, or journalists to stop asking questions. Somebody needs to challenge the narrative the Tories are selling in the hopes that more people will finally stop buying it.

READ MORE: Welfare state ‘not safe in Tory hands' as report shows fate of claimants

If nothing else, it’s a worthwhile endeavour in itself to let the people know that they are not alone if they are struggling under these callous policies, they are not to blame, and there are people out there who want to create a better, fairer society than this.

David Linden is right when he says the opposition from Keir Starmer’s Labour has been incredibly weak. It’s been far less than the people who voted for his party deserve in the face of such a grotesquely incompetent and inhumane government.

In Scotland, we have another option. And with each day that passes, each plea for compassion that Boris Johnson’s government ignores, it becomes harder to deny that independence is the only viable way out of this mess.

At times like these it is hard not to feel helpless, but we are not - we can’t let ourselves be - hopeless.