johann lamontBy Bob Duncan  

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont is today facing claims that she has been publicly humilliated after UK Labour leader Ed Miliband praised universal benefits as a "bedrock" of society, leaving the two leaders at odds on policy.

Speaking 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," adding that such services were a "very, very important principle".

Last year, Johann Lamont caused controversy when she launched her plans for a 'cuts commission' to examine which popular universal services could be cut, removed or means tested in Scotland.  Criticising what she described as Scotland's "something for nothing" society, the Scottish Labour leader targeted all services, including university education, free personal care and concessionary travel for older people.

In a speech in Edinburgh, the Scottish Labour leader told activists and the media, "I am not going to get into an auction with the SNP.  They might cry freedom but the idea that Scotland is a land where everything is free is a lie."

However, her leader Ed Miliband's insistence that universal benefits are the "bedrock" of society has been seized on by the SNP who have claimed that the comments undermine the Scottish Labour leader.

Clips of Ed Miliband backing universal benefits

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."

Ed Miliband's comments follow media reports that Ms Lamont's Scottish Labour group blocked a Holyrood debate on universal benefits – despite her calls for an "honest debate" on the issue.

According to the Sunday Herald, SNP MSP Clare Adamson had expected to hold a member's debate on the case for universal benefits this week.  However, the Labour group at Holyrood complained there was not enough cross-party support to stage the debate – and after refusing to back it, the debate was axed.

The debate, which had been scheduled for this Thursday, was on a Jimmy Reid Foundation report entitled The Case for Universalism.

Having regularly attacked the SNP, claiming Alex Salmond's party were trying to stifle debate on the subject - as recently as last Thursday's First Minister's Questions - Lamont has now been accused of "rank hypocrisy" by her SNP opponents.

Jimmy Reid Foundation convener Bob Thomson, a Labour member for 50 years and a former chair of the Scottish party, said the Holyrood Labour group was wrong to act as it did:

"We would urge the Scottish Labour Party to see a debate on universal public services as an opportunity and not a threat.

"These are the principles on which the Labour movement was founded and many people in that movement in Scotland today want to hear Johann Lamont flesh out Labour's thinking a bit more than the slightly unfortunate soundbites which have been reported so far.

"It's no good calling for a debate if you don't take the opportunity to have a debate when it arises."

Commenting on Scottish Labour's refusal to step in and save the debate, 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’.”


# Early Ball 2013-01-13 22:42
Maybe that's why Labour turned down the "debate" in Holyrood.
# Will C 2013-01-13 23:00
If anything highlights the fact that these people are not fit to govern it is this. Lamont's position is now untenable, she should resign immediately. She has been hung out to dry by her London masters. She is now the 'Toom Tabard' of the Referendum campaign.
# Yesitis 2013-01-13 23:26
Vote No in 2014 and Scotland and the Scots can expect the word humiliated to appear on a very regular basis. If you believe Johann Lamont is fit to be First Minister of Scotland; vote No to independence.

I suspect Johann Lamont will have her back covered by the pro-unionist Scottish media before any real damage is done. I expect there to be a Labour contrived new SNP accused news story next week (nothing new there) which Lamont will use for cover (as usual).

This is Scotland in 2013.
# Jim Johnston 2013-01-14 11:44
You're right on the button Yesitis.
I keep reminding people that the decimation of Scotland by Thatcher, after we were conned like a load of sheep in 1979, will be like a boom time bonanza if Scots reject Independence in 2014. The '79 referendum was rigged by Labour and Scotland was then molested and raped by the Conservatives for 18 years.

The 1997 referendum led to "devolution" minus. Even to this very day Westminster boint blank refuse to reveal secret devolution documents. WHY ???

Vote No and Scotlands humiliation and devastating destruction will be dire and absolute.

Learn from history !!!!!.
# Roll_On_2011 2013-01-13 23:48

Well, well, it did not take long for another of ‘The Bitter Together gang’ smears to unwind. Only a few weeks ago Alistair Darling mentioned foreigners.

MOST English people will never regard the Scots as foreigners even if Scotland votes for independence next year, a new survey has revealed.

The Ipsos Mori survey of 2,515 people across the UK shows that 64 per cent of the English will still believe they have a common bond with the Scots following a Yes vote in 2014.

A majority of Scots also thinks that they will never see the English as residents of a foreign country. Almost two-thirds of a small Scottish sample (429) also said they would always consider themselves British even after a split from the rest of the UK.

# Albalha 2013-01-14 09:23
And in other news the risible Call Kaye is asking, according to the trail in GMS, why shouldn't our Scotlympians, like Andy Murray get a vote in 2014, regardless of where they live ..... referring to the Scottish Affairs Ctee report.....I wonder what the audience for the programme is? Certainly much more cash spent on it than the days of G Stewart.....can't imagine the RAJAR figures show an increase though.
# UpSpake 2013-01-14 08:09
Bizarre. The left hand doesn't know what the other left hand is doing.
Further down the body Labour, the two left feet aren't sure either.
# an Olaindeach 2013-01-14 08:24
Well, one could also argue that Lamont disagreeing with Milliband, shows that Scottish Labour is more than just the local branch.

Persoanally I won't go as far as to describe that as independent thinking of Lamont's part though...
# mealer 2013-01-14 08:34
Perhaps NNS could do an article outlining just who stands for what in the Labour party.Its all getting beyond me.
# Christian_Wright 2013-01-14 17:06
You'd need a flow chart to follow where Labour's north Britain branch has been on policy.

Let's be kind and start the review at the launching of the policy on mandatory sentences for possession of a knife and then insisted they were mandatory but judges would have discretion.

When it was pointed out to them that judges having discretion in sentencing meant it was not mandatory sentencing, they got all huffy and scampered off to the nearest sandwich shop to lose the election.
# Breeks 2013-01-14 09:17
There's something very tiresome about following the antics of Scottish Labour and Johann Lamoont.

When I read what Allan Grogan has to say about what Scottish Labour once stood for, it's not difficult to imagine an epic debate of highest principle with our Scottish Government, where every deal struck on fairness, education, care and welfare, and dignity of our people might be seen as one great monolith to set upon another, building from the ground up the a wonderful egalitarian Nation which Scotland has the potential to become and the history to deserve.

There is no vision in the NO camp. Alistair Darling has nothing we want, the Better Together market stall has nothing but empty shelves. Toom Tabard is an apt name for Johann Lamont, but I just look forward to the brighter day when Scotland can be rid of this bitter Unionist melancholy and endless hypocrisy. I will feel so very angry if such people deny us our new beginning.
# Dowanhill 2013-01-14 09:35
Lamont's position surely must now invite mutterings that she is clearly not up to the job? There's only so much a pro union national broadcaster can do to minimise her dreadful tenure as a leader of an opposition party.

Suits the independence cause no end! Campaign to ensure Joanne Lamont remains Labour Leader in Scotland any one???
# Macart 2013-01-14 09:41
No seriously, just exactly what does Labour stand for on anything? Or are they just saying the first thing that comes into their minds in front of a camera?

Or could it be worse for Johann than we thought? Could Ed have used Johann and the sumthin' fer nuthin' speech to gage public opinion? The irony would be too much.
# Stevie Cosmic 2013-01-14 09:43
I've read elsewhere that the debate was canned hours before Miliband's appearance on the Marr show. Coincidence? I don't think so....

Sounds to me like canning the debate was an exercise in damage limitation.
# bringiton 2013-01-14 11:27
Unlike the Tories,Labour are still stuck with the fact that they have to appeal to two sets of voters whose priorities and philosophies are on a divergent path.
There is no way round this other than saying one thing to us Scots and something different to the Home Counties in order to get the support they need to form a Westminster government.
This leaves them open to charges of double dealing and hypocracy.
# davemsc 2013-01-14 12:13
Which is the very thing they themselves criticise the Lib Dumbs for doing with all their 'local campaigning'.
# K Mackay 2013-01-14 14:50
Totally agree with your point bringiton but would add that they can't even do hypocracy right, surely Lamont should've supported universal benefits to keep us 'something for nothing' Scots onside and Millipede should've condemned universal benefits to please the Tory voters they're trying to attract down south.

Reminds me of the Katie Morag story where she has to deliver the post and everyone gets the wrong parcel.
# FREEDOM1 2013-01-14 11:46
Call Kaye did not last long before she changed the subject. Too many e-mails telling complainers to come back home to Scotland and qualify for your vote. She was flogging a dead horse and she knows it. Come on Andy. I like your new Aussi name (Crocodile Dunblane) excellent. Vote Yes 2014
# RJBH 2013-01-14 12:24
Johann Lamont is probably the best thing that has happened for the the SNP since... Since Ian Grey really....but No room for complacency.. Westminster is still to open the box marked... 'Dirty Tricks.'
# Old Smokey 2013-01-14 13:43
Slightly O/T, I see the Herald has a poll, where they are stating that the 'Yes Campaign' has stalled as its still on 28% (according to the poll they commissioned). They do admit , but dont make any big deal about is the fact that support for the status quo has dropped from 50% to 48%. So if Yes has stalled, what has the status quo done? Sinking?
The dont knows have increased to 24%
The article states that the sampling was 1000 taken in 55 constituencies . At this moment the actual details from TNS BMRB Scotland has not been fully published
# Ped 2013-01-14 14:50
Meanwhile on the Yes Scotland web site, there is a slightly differing opinion of trends:
# velofello 2013-01-14 17:07
Lamont should resign. Her boss has treated her with contempt. If she doesn't then I can only conclude that she sees herself as too wee and too stupid to Find another job?
# pmcrek 2013-01-14 19:07
Can we have a concerted effort to stop using words like welfare and perhaps even benefits?

For the overwhelming majority these should be seen as entitlements.
# Willow 2013-01-14 19:19
Sorry this is off topic but I thought it was of interest.

The BBC have put out a request for questions on the referendum for Blair Jenkins for a half hour interview
# sneckedagain 2013-01-14 20:46

Exactly I prefer using the words "services" or "provisions"

"Benefits" has bennmade into a pejorative term
# call me dave 2013-01-14 21:33
Is it not wonderful to hear the unionist leaders(no not including Lamont)waffle on about the EU. They obviously spout whatever suits them

They need time to set out the arguments before the British people about (maybe) leaving the union. BUT

They wanted the Scottish referendum yesterday no need for a debate, get it over with!

Before they have a referendum about the possibility of leaving (maybe) the EU they want to negotiate with the EU representatives about the terms BUT

They think that negotiating, about life in Britain after an independent Scotland as per the SG request is a load of nonsense.

Funny old world !

If there is a referendum on staying in the EU I look forward to the question. Which must be clear and decisive and unambiguous

Aye right!

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