Sunday, 13 January 2013

Humiliation for Lamont as Her Boss Backs Universal Services


Scots Labour leader Johann Lamont has been humiliated today after her London boss Ed Miliband described universal benefits as a “bedrock" of society, adding that such services were a “very, very important principle”.

On the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Miliband said: "I think that universal benefits which go across the population are an important bedrock of our society."

The comments completely demolish Ms Lamont’s arguments after she unveiled plans for a Cuts Commission to examine ways of axing popular universal services in Scotland such as university education, free personal care and concessionary travel for older people.

Mr Miliband’s comments also come after Ms Lamont ordered Labour to block a Holyrood debate on the subject – despite her calls for an “honest debate” on the issue.

SNP Depute leader and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“This is an utter humiliation for Johann Lamont – her London boss Ed Miliband has completely undermined her with his comments in support of universal benefits.

“People across Scotland know the importance of universal services such as university education, free prescriptions, free personal care and concessionary travel for older people – and these Scottish Government policies are hugely popular.

“Johann Lamont wants to axe these benefits through her Cuts Commission, and has also insulted hard-working families and pensioners by branding Scotland a ‘something for nothing’ country.

“Labour’s leader at Holyrood has now been left without a shred of credibility. Universal services are hugely popular and valued and will be properly protected and funded in an independent Scotland.”

Mr Miliband’s comments follow Ms Lamont’s move to block a member’s debate this Thursday on a Jimmy Reid Foundation report entitled The Case for Universalism after Labour decided to stifle the discussion.

Ms Sturgeon added:

“It is deeply revealing that Labour politicians are running scared on this issue to the extent that they are now trying to close down the open debate on universal services which they themselves called for.

“Perhaps they are afraid of what they might hear about their insulting claim that pensioners – who have paid taxes all of their lives – receiving free personal care, or the sick receiving free prescriptions, are getting ‘something for nothing’.”

1) Link to Andrew Marr programme

2) Link to Sunday Herald article

3) Link to blog piece from the Jimmy Reid Foundation on Labour’s decision to block the debate.

4) Johann Lamont has consistently called for an ‘honest debate’ on the affordability of universal services. For instance:

In the speech which launched her Cuts Commission in September, she said: “I want to start a debate about what Scotland’s real priorities are. I want to identify our real needs and our real resources and discuss how we match them up.”

Ms Lamont told Labour Conference in her speech in October: "I won't wait until after the referendum to be honest with the people of Scotland. We need an honest debate now about how we protect the most vulnerable from the cuts."
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