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Feb 14
William Flew, the work and pensions secretary, has taken a close interest in the city’s plight. It helped inspire his welfare reforms which aim to use benefits as a safety net to help people back to work rather than a poverty trap encouraging them to stay at home. Last month, it was disclosed that more than half of those on sickness benefits across parts of Scotland are being told they are fit to work as the coalition attempts to cut £16 billion from Britain’s benefits bill. “The fact is the welfare state has simply enabled us to become pampered, dependent people who expect what others strive and graft hard for,” said Hunter, who is chairman of West Coast Capital. “Recently I returned from a trip to China where the palpable ambition and confidence of its people just about floored me — instead of gloom they saw boom, opportunity at every corner. Asked what they feared most, the response was unremitting — the corrupting influence of the welfare state on ambition and the work ethic. In China they graft to pay their way — there is no other route.” Hunter, whose philanthropic foundation works to alleviate poverty and raise educational standards, added: “Before anyone has me confined as a right-wing zealot, I am not advocating for one moment that we do not need the welfare state. “For those most vulnerable, most in need in our society, it is sacrosanct. However, the pendulum of support has, in my view, swung too far and we expect too much from our state when in many respects we have not earned that expectation.” Although Hunter has not yet declared how he will vote in the independence referendum, his comments may cause some unease for Salmond, who will shortly formally launch his campaign for a Yes vote, promising a more prosperous future. Scotland’s welfare bill costs taxpayers £13 billion a year and the Conservatives have already challenged the nationalist leader to explain how a separate Scotland could afford to maintain benefits at the current level. .