Labour leader 'doing Scotland down'

Commenting on Labour Scottish Parliament leader Iain Gray’s speech on the economy, the Scottish National Party’s Westminster Work & Pensions Spokesperson, John Mason MP, accused Mr Gray of "talking down Scotland’s abilities and potential".

Mr Mason dismissed Mr Gray’s attacks on independence, pointing to increasing support for independence, and to the recognition by UK Employment Minister Tony McNulty that the Scottish Government "are doing all they can" to help the economy.

Mr Mason said:

"The electorate backed the SNP Government over the Budget, and made it clear that they expected the Opposition parties to work with the Scottish Government in the best interests of Scotland.

"Unfortunately for Iain Gray, his speech has been overtaken by events – both in terms of rising support for independence, and the remarks by UK Employment Minister Tony McNulty that the SNP Government ‘are doing all they can’ to address the economic downturn.

"On reflection, Iain Gray would have been well advised to re-write his speech in light of the weekend’s developments. The reality is that the Downing Street downturn has destroyed Labour’s credibility.

"It is a sign of desperation by Labour that the first priority of Iain Gray during what is a global financial crisis, affecting nations large and small, is to talk down Scotland's abilities and potential.

"What the recession demonstrates beyond doubt is the need for the Scottish Government and Parliament to have real financial and economic teeth, including borrowing powers, so that decisions can be taken at Holyrood to reflate Scotland’s economy and overcome the downturn as quickly as possible. Otherwise, Scotland is at the mercy of badly researched policies at Westminster – such as the temporary cut in VAT, which will deliver less than half the jobs and output impact compared to spending the same amount of money on capital investment.

"Iain Gray has been left looking leaden footed by the TNS System Three poll at the weekend showing that support for independence is increasing as people want economic and financial powers transferred to Holyrood – and as the SNP deliver good government through measures such as freezing council tax, reducing business rates, abolishing prescription charges and delivering a record number of police officers.

"And the recognition by Tony McNulty that the Scottish Government are doing everything in their power to protect the economy leaves Iain Gray’s criticisms looking foolish and plain wrong."


A note of Mr McNulty’s exchange on the BBC Politics Show yesterday (Sunday 8 February) is detailed below:

Glen Campbell: "So you reckon the Scottish Government is doing all it can to try and ease the economic pain?"

Tony McNulty: "Well, I think so. I think in some cases there is still discussion to be had . . . But broadly I think they are doing all they can and they are working – certainly in as far as my brief in terms of employment is concerned – they are working with us in common cause…"

Independence Poll:

The TNS System Three poll in the Sunday Herald was conducted from 28 January to 3 February.

It asks the independence question using the wording in the Scottish Government's National Conversation White Paper.

Agree that Scotland should negotiate independence:

February 2009

Yes: 38 per cent

No: 40 per cent

November 2008

Yes: 35 per cent

No: 43 per cent

August 2007

Yes: 35 per cent

No: 50 per cent

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