THE CHAIR of the Scottish Commission on Social Security has resigned before her contract is up, blaming the Scottish Government's “approach to the ongoing Covid19 pandemic.”

In a letter to Holyrood’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee, Dr Sally Witcher said that as “someone with exceptionally high underlying clinical risk who is ineligible for additional boosters and antiviral treatments” she had been forced to “consider carefully how I wish to use my remaining time.” 

Dr Witcher, a former chief executive of the national disabled people’s organisation, Inclusion Scotland, was appointed to chair the commission in 2019.

It is responsible for scrutinising the new Scottish social security system to ensure it delivered according to the principles of the Social Security Charter. 

Dr Witcher, who is herself disabled and in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, was due to end her four-year term in January 2023. 

In her letter to MSPs, she said: “Here is not the place to rehearse my views of the Scottish Government’s approach to the ongoing Covid19 pandemic. Suffice it to say that it has placed me personally in an extremely difficult position, as someone with exceptionally high underlying clinical risk who is ineligible for additional boosters and antiviral treatments. 

“This has caused me to consider carefully how I wish to use my remaining time. Throughout my career, including, in this role, I have worked towards tackling inequality, making human rights real and promoting full inclusion. 

“In the current context, I need to speak freely and publicly on these topics, and it is on this that I now want to focus more of my time and energy.”

Dr Witcher said the last year had been “a challenging period” for the commission.

She said the set-up of the board meant they had been “unable to make more headway with work on the Social Security Charter, stakeholder engagement and communications, including, importantly, with people with lived experience.”

Though she welcomed government plans to review the Commission’s constitution, governance model and support needs. 

Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy said Dr Witcher’s resignation was ”a blow to social security in Scotland.” 

She said: “Dr Witcher brought a wealth of experience and her input will be sorely missed. That she felt the need to resign is a sorry reflection on the state of affairs.

“It’s becoming clearer by the day that the SNP government have not only been unambitious, but they’ve failed to provide the support, leadership and systems needed to develop and deliver the social security system Scotland needs. 

“Dr Witcher has done vital work in an incredibly difficult context. The government must heed her concerns, build on her efforts to put lived experience and years of knowledge at the heart of the new system.

“The status quo isn’t fit for purpose – the SNP should waste no more time, deliver the organisational and cultural change needed, backed up by an adequately resourced and supported system of scrutiny so that we can unlock the full potential of Scotland’s social security system and the people who rely on it.”