STUC warning on Labour's Cuts Commission
STUC WARNING ON LAMONT’S ‘EXTREME POSITION’ ON UNIVERSAL BENEFITS
MEANWHILE – WELSH TORIES BACK SCOTTISH LABOUR’S CUTS COMMISSION
Further pressure was heaped on Johann Lamont today, after STUC Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham said on national radio that Johann Lamont’s proposal to reintroduce means testing for universal benefits “came as something of a surprise, to put it mildly” referring to it as an “extreme position.”
Mr Moxham also resolutely defended the principle of universal benefits, which he said the STUC supported "almost per se," and noted that “I haven’t heard a clear argument apart from affordability, and there has not been any principled argument, or policy argument, as to why they are bad things”
Mr Moxham’s comments echo sentiments expressed by a number of other organisations including NUS Scotland, Age Scotland and the Scottish Police Federation. Embarrassingly, however, Lamont’s Cuts Commission has been warmly welcomed by the Welsh Conservatives.
Commenting, SNP MSP Mark McDonald – who is taking part in an STUC event today with Mr Moxham entitled “A Just Scotland” said:
“It's no wonder that Labour supporters have been so horrified by Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission.
“Dave Moxham is quite right to warn against the extreme position taken by Johann Lamont this week.
“In a move which has been described as ‘positively Blairite’, Ms Lamont has completely abandoned Labour’s core values and is now looking for ways to implement Tory cuts.
“People in Scotland overwhelmingly back these universal benefits – they define the kind of society in which we want to live. If Johann Lamont won’t listen to people like the STUC, then I really don’t know who she will listen to.”
Responding to a press release from the Welsh Tories, in which they congratulate Johann Lamont for opposing universal free prescriptions and call on her to encourage Welsh Labour to do likewise, Mr McDonald said:
“The fact that Johann Lamont is being held as a role model for the Tories in Wales, while the STUC call on her to re-think her attack on universal benefits, is hugely embarrassing for the Labour Party – not just in Scotland, but across the UK.
“Labour voters will note the stark contrast, and the fact that the only people publicly backing her plans are the Tories perhaps says it all about the extent to which Labour in Scotland has completely lost its way.”
In Wales, Tory Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar has this week said “There is a clear split in Labour thinking here and it is the Scots that have got it right in supporting Scottish and Welsh Conservative policy.”
On Good Morning Scotland today, Dave Moxham said:
“As far as the STUC was concerned this came as something of a surprise, to put it mildly. We’ve had discussions with the Labour Party over a range of issues but this very specific approach, shall we call it, to universal benefits did come as a surprise, yes.”
“…we’re a supporter of universal benefits almost per se, and we’re the supporters of a progressive taxation system in order, in order to fund that. So, you know, a quick look at STUC policy positions will find that every single one of the universal benefits that were referred to earlier this week are ones that we support.”
“I haven’t heard a clear argument apart from affordability, and there has not been any principled argument, or policy argument, as to why they are bad things”
“It’s obviously my hope, you know, and possibly my expectation that the, the kind of, extreme position that seems to have been presented this week in which all of these universal benefits are potentially at threat will have been tempered somewhat.”
Extracts from an interview with Age Scotland’s Lindsay Scott on GMS yesterday:
Gary Robertson: Let’s just deal with the principle first of all, Lindsay, do you accept that something has to give?
Lindsay Scott: we accept that it might be worth looking at certain aspects of this, but we certainly don’t see any point in basically abolishing universality, and some of the policies that have been put on the table here we think are very beneficial to society as a whole. I’m thinking of things like the bus pass, like personal care, which we class as being a preventative spend. They are costly but they’re saving money in the long term.
GR: Lindsay Scott - the issue of universality, when we have free prescriptions which go to very wealthy people, free bus travel which goes to wealthy elderly people, is there not an argument for saying that if some can afford to pay they should?
LS: That means introducing means-testing Gary, and means-testing has been proven time and time again not to do what it’s supposed to do. We know that the idea is to target the money at the people who are most vulnerable, who need it the most, but it basically has had the opposite effect. There’s so much complexity and expense around means-testing that respected institutions such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Pensions Policy Institute, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, have all called it unacceptably complicated, and stigmatizing, and expensive, and called for it basically to be reduced if not done away with completely. So we don’t see the point of reintroducing means-testing. There are other ways of ensuring that those who can afford it pay for it.
LS: The fact that there are really rich people getting payments cannot be used as a reason to get rid of a straightforward scheme that works well for the majority.