By Bob Duncan
Labour’s ‘Cuts Commission’ has been given a stark warning that any attempts to introduce means testing for free personal care for the elderly would have the “opposite effect” to that claimed by Johann Lamont’s party in that it would ultimately harm the most vulnerable.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Age Scotland’s Lindsay Scott said that “means-testing has been proven time and time again not to do what it’s supposed to do,”.

Mr Scott pointed out that respected institutions such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Pensions Policy Institute and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, have all called it “unacceptably complicated, stigmatising and expensive.”

In direct opposition to the Scottish Labour leader’s position, Mr Scott also said “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.”

The comments follow a week of chaos and confusion from the Labour Party in Scotland on the issue of Universal benefits.  After Johann Lamont announced a working group to look at Universal benefits on Tuesday, her spin doctors immediately tried to claim that free personal care would not be under threat.

However, that was undermined on Thursday when the man set to lead the commission – former Labour advisor Professor Arthur Midwinter – confirmed that “nothing was off the table,” causing alarm to the thousands of pensioners who have benefitted immensely from the policy.

On BBC Radio Scotland's flagship breakfast programme, Good Morning Scotland, presenter Gary Robertson asked Lindsay Scott if it was right that universal benefits could be paid to wealthy people, or “is there not an argument for saying that if some can afford to pay they should?”

Responding, Mr Scott replied: “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.”

Later in the same broadcast, James Kelly MSP - standing in for Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, who was unavailable - was asked if Labour's new policy stance spelled the end of the universal benefit.  He refused to answer, despite being asked repeatedly by the presenter, Gary Robertson.

When Kelly was then asked several more times if means testing was the inevitable outcome of his new policy, he again refused to answer.

Labour MSP James Kelly interviewed on Radio Scotland

Commenting on the confusion, SNP MSP Aileen McLeod – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee – said Mr Scott's intervention had "highlighted the real dangers threatened by Labour’s cuts commission to free personal care and older people in Scotland."

Ms McLeod added:

“He is absolutely right to point out the issues surrounding stigmatisation and bureaucracy, which mean it actually leaves the most vulnerable in a worse position.

“We’ve already seen another Labour front-bencher admit this week that she thought there wouldn’t be any benefit to means-testing free prescriptions – that’s why the Scottish Government abolished them for everyone, and exactly the same logic applies to free personal care.

“The more we learn about Labour’s cuts commission, the more worrying it becomes. Instead of looking for ways to protect Scotland’s key social policies, Johann Lamont is simply looking for ways to implement Tory cuts and follow a right-wing Westminster agenda.

“How sad that a party which once proudly boasted of introducing free personal care for the elderly is now looking to dismantle it – no wonder Ruth Davidson has welcomed them to the Tory camp.”

Meanwhile suspicions have been raised that Johann Lamont’s attack on universal benefits was prompted by London bosses after Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls announced that a future UK Labour government would be “ruthless and disciplined” when it came to reviewing public spending.

Mr Balls made the announcement days after the Scottish Labour leader claimed universal benefits would be unaffordable due to future cuts to the Scottish budget.

Speaking ahead of Labour's annual conference this weekend in Manchester, Mr Balls told The Guardian newspaper: "The public want to know that we are going to be ruthless and disciplined in how we go about public spending.

"For a Labour government in 2015, it is quite right, and the public I think would expect this,”


# oldnat 2012-09-28 23:23
Of course, another alternative explanation for Lamont's speech is offered as an option in BBC Scotlandshire's latest poll.

"She is simply very, very stupid indeed."
# Alan 2012-09-28 23:23
Means-testing is bureaucratic and expensive to administrate. The whole point of progressive taxation is that you may give with the left hand but take it back with the right (unbureaucratic ally and inexpensively). Ultimately the well-off have no net benefit from universal benefits but those who need them definitely get them no questions asked, no stigmatisation and no begging for them.
# Barontorc 2012-09-28 23:39
So silly Johann Lamont was merely mouthing the mantra about to come from Ed Balls who's main aim is to get support from non-socialist supporters in England.

It really takes the proverbial biscuit that she and her advisers are so bankrupt of ideas for Scotland they are prepared to ditch those very last vestiges of old Labour's socialism just to cling onto New Labours coat-tails.

Talk about clutching at straws!

As for James Kelly's absolutely pathetic performance on GMS - even Gary Robertson was forced by an almost forgotten principle somewhere in his make up to confront him and produce a viable real interview.
# call me dave 2012-09-29 00:11
Aye! The days of coming on the BBC unprepared; ready to get free scoff in spreading your lies and deceit is still expected by people like MSP Kelly.

But on this occasion he came up against Gary Robertson on a good day who decided to earn his money by asking a few questions.

More of this please BBC and what a difference it would make.

As I have said before
Where do Labour get people like that, is there a special place where a lack of brain cells is an important criteria for selection?

He will think long and hard before his next appearance!
# oldnat 2012-09-29 00:29
People of a generous disposition (OK - not me!)will feel sorry for James Kelly.

He doesn't seem that bright, and certainly not capable of dealing with complex political concepts such as universality of benefits.

On second thoughts, he could have said to Johann "If you want to be unavailable for comment, I'm not going to fill in for you when neither of us have a clue as to what you meant in that speech."
# RaboRuglen 2012-09-29 06:29
Hi there,

I agree. I have never heard Gary Robertson attack a Labour politician like that before. What has the excellent Mr Kelly done to deserve this, or is this the start of the BBC taking a more neutral stance? I doubt the latter. Probably even the BBC are having difficulty putting a positive spin on this one. Maybe the interview reflected their frustration with "Scottish" Labour?

# Clydebuilt 2012-09-29 09:26
Quoting RaboRuglen:
Hi there,

I agree. I have never heard Gary Robertson attack a Labour politician like that before. What has the excellent Mr Kelly done to deserve this, or is this the start of the BBC taking a more neutral stance? I doubt the latter. Probably even the BBC are having difficulty putting a positive spin on this one. Maybe the interview reflected their frustration with "Scottish" Labour?


I've noticed The BBC give S.Lab a hard time when the incumbents (Captives) make mistakes that will damage them ....and the BBC's Blessed Union....So my take on Garry giving Kelly a hard time is to get SLab back on track and dump the latest Guff. After all S. Lab is the BBC 's only hope of keeping Scots Trapped in the union.
# call me dave 2012-09-29 09:21

It's those that don't know they don't know that are dangerous and shouldn't be allowed near sharp objects or get near the levers of power.

What a gift for the yes campaign but what a sorry state of affairs for the Labour party.
# proudscot 2012-09-29 11:33
Quoting oldnat:
People of a generous disposition (OK - not me!)will feel sorry for James Kelly.

He doesn't seem that bright, and certainly not capable of dealing with complex political concepts such as universality of benefits.

On second thoughts, he could have said to Johann "If you want to be unavailable for comment, I'm not going to fill in for you when neither of us have a clue as to what you meant in that speech."

oldnat, I honestly don't think Kelly is capable of dealing with the complex question of what colour of socks to put on in the morning. Maybe Ms Lamont knows this and offered him up as a sacrificial lamb to show us that there actually are people in her party who are even more thick than herself.
# ButeHouse 2012-09-29 00:41
The idea of multi millionaires like Jim McColl, Sir Tom Farmer or Alan Sugar even getting on a bus never mind struggling to get their bus pass out is laughable.

And for those wealthy enough to think they shouldn't get free prescriptions etc all they have to do is pay for them.

Free services are NOT compulsory, they are for those who need them and can easily be ignored by those who can afford to pay.


p.s. around 60 or 70 at a YES meeting in Morningside tonight. Not bad for a wet Friday night.
# Corriedug 2012-09-29 16:11
Anyone earning over £40,000 is likely to be contributing far more in the first place in the form of upwards of 40% tax on all their earnings,than any benefits they might be receiving "free"!
Indeed pensioners who might be considered "wealthy" are very likely to have paid higher rate tax for a considerable part of their lives thus contributing greatly to the benefits system over their lifetime. They are also probably paying a healthy chunk of tax in their old age on their pension income too. Although they may not need the "free" benefits surely they have earned them?
Who in their right mind considers it best to adopt a convoluted, complicated and expensive method simply to prevent a deserving few of these individuals. It is certain that the money not given to these individuals will see it's way to those who are needy.
# Breeks 2012-09-29 04:57
It's not pleasant to witness a beast wallowing in a tar pit, but when they dig their own hole and supply their own tar, there's a limit to how much empathy you can muster.
Some critters are just destined for extinction, and sooner or later, the BBC will eventually turn up to make a documentary about it.
# Aplinal 2012-09-29 06:53
Yes, an astonishingly robust interview by Gary. Has he seen the light?
# J Wil 2012-09-29 07:46
Regarding BBC Scotland interviews. The Labour Party always got an easy ride. Only once that I can remember the opposite happened, when Jim Murphy was asked some awkward questions. He seemed shocked and was caught off guard. His reaction as always was to put on an even bigger helping of his famous smarm than usual and that was really pushing his boundaries.

Regarding bus passes, I would be interested to know actual figures for more well off, or even relatively comfortable people using buses and involking their bus pass if they even have them. My own experience is that I was only recently persuaded to obtain a bus pass although I have been entitled to one for a number of years. I have only used it once, fairly recently, to be able to collect my car from a service and MOT centre. As someone has already observed, if bus passes were wihdrawn or limited to a few, bus services would not be viable.

On the question of transport, Curran is back pedalling her bike like mad in defence of Lamont in a Herald article.

Her attacks on the SNP like, "We are getting constantly told by the SNP Government everything is fine and that's just not true.", are just part of the lies culture which flows off the tongues of Labourites without reservation.

Sterrheid should get on with what she does best - accusing her neebors of no cleaning the lavvy and not taking their turn at washing the sterrs.
# piston broke 2012-09-29 08:09
Ed Milliband, interviewed on Derek Bateman's show this morning, backed Lamont's speech to the hilt.So it looks as if she was following instructions from London after all.He also said, assuming that Labour will win the next Scottish election,that 'Johann will have to work within the constraints of the block grant.' By this I think we can assume that there will be no more powers for Scotland under Labour.
# Harry.Shanks 2012-09-29 08:14
James Kelly gives the impression (I'm being generous)of being intellectually unfit for office - barely able to string a coherent sentence together, and totally incapable to answering any question he has not been pre-programmed for.

This shambolic performance only serves to underline why, on the one hand, I am thoroughly embarassed to have him as my local MSP - whilst at the same time I'm quite pleased that he is put forward as being representative of the Labour Party.
# Robabody 2012-09-29 08:32
Didn't another Lindsay that is Lindsay Roy, Labour MP, have his initial win in Glenrothes based around a campaign that included attacking the then current council care charges?

Oh dear. In that case, as Captain Picard didn't say, "Labour hats to shooglie pegs - engage"
# Davy 2012-09-29 08:33
That interview by James Kelly was just to funny for words, I hope he listens to that car-crash, and at least privitely has some shame for labours new tory stance.
# davemsc 2012-09-29 11:02
I'm listening to it in utter disbelief. There are more contortions in it than in a bowl of spaghetti. I wonder if Kelly was a victim of Johann Lamont's period as a teacher...
# cokynutjoe 2012-09-29 09:42
How come somebody could forseeably pass the "Means Test" yet have half a dozen Scottish Colourists hanging in the living room? Is Anita Manning to be despatched roond the hooses with the "Meannie Inspector" checking on the Clarice Cliff in grannie's press or the wee Ming bowl she keeps her teeth in?
# Ready to Start 2012-09-29 09:47
Herald this morning is in full defend Labour mode with several articles backing Lamont and no letters published, such as mine, against means testing etc.
# Adrian B 2012-09-29 10:15
Interesting article in the Herald however that is far from glowing towards Labour.....

The Labour party have their conference in Manchester next week. The likely hood is we will be force fed more rubbish via the normal compliant media outlets. Backdrops of Union flags should be anticipated for those of a Scottish disposition.
# sneckedagain 2012-09-29 10:58
Ready to Start

Indeed. I went to the Herald this morning expecting the letters to be dominated by the Labour nonsense and found not a letter on the subject.
I'm sure there were hundreds submitted.
I'll be banging one and I suggest everybody who reads this should do the same and we will see what's published on Monday. Dave McEwan Hill
# bringiton 2012-09-29 11:27
Since the Labour party in Scotland are now committed to honesty and saving the public purse from unnecssary expenditure what they should do is allow the Tories to represent their constituents and disband as a political entity.
At least,they can be honest with Scottish voters and no longer pretend to be one thing in England and something different here.
We now have the English (or British as I am sure they would prefer to be called) Labour party dictating policy north of the border in an open and honest way.
At a stroke,Lamont has solved the problem of having to come up with any policies for Scotland which may differ from those being pursued in England.
# jim288 2012-09-29 12:04
I listened to James Kelly interview with a real mixture of emotions. I was delighted at the questionning by Gary Robertson. Lots of simple direct questions firmly put and pursued. Then the next moment it was all I could do not to turn it off when listening to the intellectual pygmy that is James Kelly. I'm ashamed that Scotland has someone like that as a democratically elected politician. He would not and could not respond even when the inconsistencies in the latest approach by Labour were pointed out. Gary was well prepared; James Kelly obviously wasn't. It's maybe good hearing Labour pinned down but it is shaming that we have politicians like James Kelly representing us.
# J Wil 2012-09-29 13:09
It seems that Lamont has thrown her MSPs to the dogs when they have to support and justify what she said the other day.

Admittedly it seems quite easy for a few Labour MSPs to make an about turn to support her propositions out of misguided loyalty.
# Mad Jock McMad 2012-09-29 12:21
Here's a pitch based on NHS prescribing rules:

You are not allowed to issue NHS prescriptions to private patients (as every NHS licenced prescriber knows).


I am a multi-millionaire, my GP doctor is in private practice in Edinburgh's Queen Street - will he or she give me a NHS prescription?
(Correct answer worth minus 10% New Labour vote share in Scotland)

Supplementray Question

Does my multimillionair e standard five day course of penicillin, by mouth cost:

1: More as a private prescription
2: The same as a New Labour NHS prescription charge
3: Less than a New Labour NHS prescription charge
4: Most private practices give the patient the course 'free' as it is as 'cheap as chips'
(Worth minus 5% New Labour vote share in Scotland)

Ans - 4: A course of penicillin costs around £2.50 on current wholesale costs. Now ponder why the same course costs our English friends £7.80p?

The New Labour Party - the party that does not know how its 'own' NHS works ...
# rodmac 2012-09-29 12:44
A tribute to Johann Lamont and the Scottish Labour party

# brusque 2012-09-29 15:02
There should be a flatbed truck parked on ever street in Scotland - blasting out that interview!!!

I can hardly believe that man could get a job in a company owned by his own family; I tried very hard to make myself be kind, but I seriously doubt whether Kelly has the intellectual capacity to even understand just how awful he was - I also wonder at the cruelty of the person who suggested he field questions on Lamont's speech!
# call me dave 2012-09-29 16:11
Where Lamont and Ed go the rest must follow.
Scottish Labour's review of universal benefits is not a betrayal of Labour's traditional values, according to Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran.

Will no-one break cover in the Labour party in Scotland and admit that there are choices that can make 'something for nothing' possible.

There is, after independence, money which can be saved on all sorts of things that, at the moment, go into the communal Westminster black hole.

We are living on pocket money dished out as a whim from the unionists as things stand.

Can this new policy change shiver find a labour party spine to crawl up and get some-one to counter it.
# cynicalHighlander 2012-09-29 18:27
Maybe Sarah Boyack: nah Jenny Marra?:
# J Wil 2012-09-29 18:22
I will listen intently to the Scottish contingent at the Labour Party Conference.

Will they be singing from the same hymn sheet as Miliband? There is plenty of scope for faux pas between Lamont, Curran and Miliband.
# ramstam 2012-09-29 18:59
My last two comments in favour of universal benefits have been deleted or modded out? Whit's gaun on? Labour are finished. Maybe they are hiring gremlins to hide the truth!

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