A list of Labour MSPs has been circulating round social media, with attached criticism for voting against a Scottish Parliament motion to raise the allowance for carers.

The Labour members have also faced criticism from a number of SNP MSPs on Twitter and Nicola Sturgeon, who took aim at them during First Minister’s Questions.

I thought that the Labour group’s decision yesterday to vote against an increase in the carers supplement was absolutely and utterly shameful. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister

Ferret Fact service looked at this claim and found it to be Mostly True.

Evidence

The Carer’s Allowance is a payment for those who spend 35 or more hours looking after someone with “substantial caring needs”. It is paid by the UK government.

The Scottish Parliament was voting to increase this and the Carer’s Allowance supplement in line with increases in everyday costs. The supplement is a twice yearly payment which increases the amount paid to carers in Scotland, under devolution legislation which allows Holyrood to ‘top up’ the carer’s allowance.

It was introduced by the Scottish Government in 2018 as part of a commitment to increase the Carers Allowance to the level of Jobseekers Allowance.

The recent controversy is over an increase to this supplement and the carers allowance, which was voted through on 13 March. The new rate would mean eligible Scottish carers receiving around £450 more per year than those elsewhere in the UK with an increase of 2.4 per cent on 2018.

A Scottish Parliament motion to agree to the uprating passed by 93 to 20. Scottish Labour’s MSPs were indeed the only party to vote against this increase, leading to a chorus of criticism from SNP politicians.

However, while Labour decided not to back the vote, the party was not opposed to increasing the amount of money paid to carers. The party had campaigned for a larger increase in the carers allowance.

Labour was seeking a change in the way inflation was measured for the uprating. The measure used by the Scottish Government is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), while Labour MSPs wanted the Retail Price Index (RPI) to be used, as it would lead to a larger increase in money for carers. Research by the Scottish Parliament, commissioned by Labour, found the difference would be around £33 per year if RPI was used.

Both RPI and CPI create a ‘shopping basket’ of products and services and averages them to find out how much everyday items cost the consumer, often called the cost of living. Changes to these averages are one of the most common ways to identify inflation or deflation. In this case, the CPI is used to calculate an increase in the carer’s benefit.

The two methods use different calculations, and CPI has broadly replaced RPI as the default way for the UK and Scottish governments to measure consumer inflation and reflect them in changes to benefits and prices. RPI was described by the Office for National Statistics as having “significant weaknesses”.

It generally runs at a lower rate, meaning the increase in inflation measured by CPI will be lower than RPI. CPI was adopted by then-chancellor George Osborne in the 2011 budget. Critics have described it as a “stealth cut” which was intended to save UK government billions of pounds a year in benefits and pension costs. It has been adopted by the Scottish Government.

Scottish Labour put forward a motion, which was also supported by the Greens, in late February, which committed to using the RPI to measure the increase in carer’s benefit. It was defeated after the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives voted against it.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly True

Scottish Labour MSPs did vote against the motion which agreed the uprating in carer’s benefits. However, they were not voting against an increase in money for carers, but instead against a smaller increase than the one they had campaigned for. This was due to a disagreement over the way inflation should be measured for benefits increases, with the Scottish Government favouring a more conservative estimate.

Mostly True – The claim is still true, but requires further information or clarification to create a full picture.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our Facebook group.

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