By First Minister Alex Salmond 
 
Scotland is the only "something for nothing" country in the world, according to Scottish Labour's leadership.

That claim is palpably ludicrous, and will be looked at askance by people the length and breadth of this country who work hard, pay their taxes and, quite rightly, expect to receive something tangible in return.

Devolution has enshrined the concept of a social contract between the people of Scotland and the Government which serves them. We live in a country in which I am proud to lead an administration that has protected things like free university education, free personal care for the elderly and medicines free at the point of need.

These and other universal benefits are hard-won advantages of home rule, some of which Labour itself was once proud to champion, but which they are now turning their back on.

However, the Labour leadership's claims about universal benefits do not stand up to any meaningful scrutiny.

These policies are by definition affordable because the Scottish Government is paying for them year after year from within a fixed budget.

Labour's "sticking the gas bill in the drawer for another day" analogy simply doesn't work – we pay for all of this now up front, and not by borrowing, which we currently don't have the power to do.

We are faced with tough choices, but we have made our priorities clear by committing to these policies, which actually only account for around 3.5% of spending in Scotland.

The warnings from some that these services will become steadily less affordable in the years to come are not new. This administration has been told at various points since we took office in 2007 that we would have to cut universal benefits, but we have protected and enhanced them by presenting a balanced budget every year and firmly cementing the concept of the social contract.

The claims about the affordability of spending in future years also fall down on two vital points. Firstly, the Scottish Government has made a strategic decision to switch our budget priorities towards preventative spending across a range of social policies, which means that instead of having to spend money to address health problems and other issues in later years, we are investing now to alleviate these problems.

Secondly, and crucially, the Scottish Government has a vision for the future finances of this country which extends far beyond the narrow confines of the austerity straitjacket being applied by David Cameron and George Osborne – and now seemingly signed up to by the Scottish Labour leadership.

That is the perhaps the most significant aspect of the debate which has opened up in recent days. Where only recently the Labour leadership said they would hold the Scottish Government to account on our pledges, they are now in retreat from that commitment, alienating many of their members and former supporters in their rush to ape Tory sloganeering.

The significance of this in the debate on Scotland's future cannot be underestimated. The Scottish Labour leadership has exposed a wide and vulnerable flank in the No campaign.

If the choice when the referendum comes is between an independent Scotland which protects the hard-won gains of devolution and seeks to build on them, with the extra tools to do so – or Tory-Labour cuts which alliance looks to strip away the existing benefits of home rule – I suspect the people will say Yes to independence.


This article originally appeared in the Sunday Herald

Comments  

 
# Astonished 2012-10-07 13:41
Excellent stuff.

Hopefully the majority will choose hope over fear.

Vote Yes
 
 
# Dundonian West 2012-10-07 13:44
Ditto Astonished!
Straight to my Facebook page. Come on all Twitters,get tweeting!
 
 
# Ready to Start 2012-10-07 14:04
An excellent rebuttal to the One Nation Tories who think that we taxpayers are getting "something for nothing".

In the case of the BBC we get nothing for something and again its bias showing over its handling of this issue.

I suppose in the scale of things their political bias in the nether regions of the One Nation pales compared to their cover up over Jimmy Saville.
 
 
# bodun 2012-10-07 19:40
Quoting Ready to Start:
In the case of the BBC we get nothing for something and again its bias showing over its handling of this issue.


However, the cracks are beginning to show at Pacific Key.

bbc.scotlandshire.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# Davy 2012-10-07 14:08
Our First Minister who portrays "Scotland as honourable in word and deed".

Alba Gu Brath.
 
 
# tartanfever 2012-10-07 16:01
How lucky we are to have a First Minister with a vision for social bonding and sense of caring for the community. It is a rare thing indeed.

Most tory and labour politicians want to reduce their power and influence because they have become nothing but middle managers, pen pushers with no vision that ultimately want to pass the buck. They privatise to get rid of government responsibility and make their lives easier. When they retire they then live of the gravy train as non-exec directors of the very companies they gave lucrative govt. contracts to. Dr John Reid and that abysmal company G4S would be a prime example of this.
 
 
# km 2012-10-07 16:07
Watched Douglas Alexander today being interviewed by Andrew Neil. Dougie at one point was asked to list the reasons that Labour lost the last UK election, and grudgingly admitted to their mishandling of the economy and regulation of the banks (while also pointing out that the Conservatives were doing pretty badly too), and then simply because Labour had been in government for 13 years.

So in a nutshell, politics in Westminster is forever going to be a choice between, on the one hand, mismanagement, greed and corruption; and on the other hand, well, mismanagement, greed and corruption.

Thank God we in Scotland have a way out of this: Vote Yes.
 
 
# Ready to Start 2012-10-07 17:04
Quoting km:
Watched Douglas Alexander today being interviewed by Andrew Neil. Dougie at one point was asked to list the reasons that Labour lost the last UK election, and grudgingly admitted to their mishandling of the economy and regulation of the banks (while also pointing out that the Conservatives were doing pretty badly too), and then simply because Labour had been in government for 13 years.

So in a nutshell, politics in Westminster is forever going to be a choice between, on the one hand, mismanagement, greed and corruption; and on the other hand, well, mismanagement, greed and corruption.

Thank God we in Scotland have a way out of this: Vote Yes.


Wee Douglas couldn't bring himself to admit that Miliband is a millionaire.. and is worth more than the Sturgeon and Salmond households put together.
 
 
# cokynutjoe 2012-10-07 16:16
Lamont's constant harping on about the Sturgeon income and free prescriptions is preposterous. Well off folk, Lamont included, presumably pay tax on their income at a level which makes prescription charges pale into insignificance.
 
 
# tilly 2012-10-07 16:30
The political landscape appears to have turned topsy-turvy when David Cameron promises not to cut universal benefits for pensioners – i.e. free bus passes and winter fuel payments and announces a council tax freeze in England for the third year in a row.

Labour, meanwhile, surpass themselves by trying to out-Tory the Tories by advocating the withdrawal of a whole raft of universal benefits.

I’m now waiting on Thatcher being exposed as a closet socialist.
 
 
# Edulis 2012-10-07 17:27
I agree with the thrust of what AS has said in this article which I read in the Sunday Herald, but he missed a trick by not repeationg what he said at FMQs, where he tore Lamentable apart, firstly by majoring on the main effect of universal benefits which is to bind society together and secondly when he responded to her vitiolic attack on his personal finances by reminding her that he had asked for a mature debate. Dumbstruck, she was!
 
 
# clootie 2012-10-07 17:28
It's a pity the BBC only lets unionist family members and spouses put their arguements forward. Today's politics show was a good example.

In addition
Labours independent finance review by an ex-labour candidate for council.

Do they really think we are that stupid!
 
 
# Jim Johnston 2012-10-07 19:05
Hi cloote,
"Do they really think we are that stupid!"

Looks like they do think that way. I hope they wont be too cut up when they find out Scots are neither stupid, negative by nature, or affected by scaremongering, when the votes are counted for Yes to Independence.
 
 
# connect2 2012-10-07 17:57
The Unionists are playing a dangerous game, if their game is, in fact, supposed to be joined up.
It strikes me that in the event of a Yes vote, the Tory party can portray the loss of Scotland from the Union as a failure of the Labour Party.
The mad scramble for the middle English vote, typified by Ed's "One Nation" positioning, with Lamont gleefully jumping on board this right wing posturing, is a train crash waiting to happen.
What I find strange is the response from the Tory Party. They appear to be encouraging Labour and it must be for future, post Independence, advantage.
If Cameron were at all committed to the preservation of the Union he would be slapping down Labour's posturing in vivid technicolour. The fact that he is not, probably indicates that he has written Scotland off, with one eye on the future.
 
 
# Iaincraig 2012-10-07 18:24
I am glad that he focused on the issue of Universal Benefits and not on personal attacks, unlike Lamont and what the MSM have been doing this week.

A week in which Labour and the MSM have tried to paint Millibland as whiter than white by hiding the fact that he is a millionaire. It got more bizarre in the Millibland PPB in which he neglected to say that he went to Oxford University.

The attacks on round the clock carers by the MSM are disgusting by making associations with carers and benefit fraud. We will not forget or forgive those abusive attacks.

The other part of me welcomes those attacks as I have converted at least three people who were dont knows in relation to Independence vote to definite Yes votes since Lamont and the BBC went on thier right wing abuse tirade. I have in addition converted another 2 No voters into abstainers. It is dirty work but they have given me a mission.

A mission that has bee given a boost by the scandals that have rocked the BBC this past week.

Apologies for wandering off topic!
 
 
# ferryman 2012-10-07 18:43
Talking about the politics show today. I only caught the end of it with Isabelle Fraser talking to mundell. Interesting point made that Cameron is now looking to impose a council tax freeze down South.
The hypocrisy of the unionist parties are beyond compare.
 
 
# SolTiger 2012-10-07 18:47
"If the choice when the referendum comes is between an independent Scotland which protects the hard-won gains of devolution and seeks to build on them, with the extra tools to do so – or Tory-Labour cuts which alliance looks to strip away the existing benefits of home rule – I suspect the people will say Yes to independence."

The long awaited start of the SNP more openly playing the powerful card of "vote independence to end tory rule"!
 
 
# smckay 2012-10-07 19:41
I have been hearing a lot of comparisons between the Scottish & Scandinavian welfare systems in the UK media recently and wanted to clear a few things up before some Bitter Together researcher cherry picks some 'facts' out of context and feeds them to the MSM.

Sweden has a form of universal benefits system but with some up front charges. To appreciate why it is important to understand that Sweden is a far more equal society in terms of wealth. The GINI index which measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family incomes rates Sweden in the top position of 136 countries listed whilst the UK is placed only 45th (and the US an abysmal 94th). Robust family incomes result in people being less dependent on the welfare system to offer 'complete' support and this allows the system to operate differently. The Swedes have achieved this situation through very stable social democratic policies and long term investment. The system is funded and pays out in a different manner to the UK - and comparisons cannot be made without proper in depth analysis.

Personal care for the elderly is administered by individual councils and has a nominal charge attached. There is even a charge to visit the accident emergency, doctor, dentist and get a prescription. But these charges are capped for everyone so that after paying a certain sum per year its free. Children always receive free care.

University Education is free but students borrow large sums to cover living expenses. It is not unusual to have debts of thirty to forty thousand pounds as students rarely stay at home when at Uni or undertake part time jobs. The interest rate for these loans is a little over base rate and 4% of future income is taken annually to pay them back. It takes most of their working life to clear this debt. This level of debt is of course undesirable but it allows students to be on an equal footing to study wherever they want and as hard as they want. Student fees have the exact opposite effect and only damage equality of opportunity and add greatly to the expense of further education.

One final example. Parent leave. If you have a higher salary and want to take parent leave you actually receive a higher benefit - the opposite situation to Labours suggestion that the 'better off' receive less. This enables those with higher salaries who have paid in more, and often have increased living expenses, to take up to 18 months off work with each child. This is a corner stone of Swedish welfare because equality only exists if it applies to everyone in society.

To summarise all Swedes have initial costs for many of the services they receive but are safe in the knowledge that in relation to their salaries (or benefits if unemployed) these costs are minor, capped if long term and the service provided of a good standard. The relationship between government and individual is one of trust and responsibility.

In the UK (where inequality is far greater, wages lower and benefits minute) removing universality and applying charges to prescriptions, care of the elderly and university education would have a devastating effect on many lower income families that would, as they always do, simply fall through the safety net.

An independent, socially democratic, Scotland would instinctively seek to achieve a greater level of income equality and could develop a far more flexible welfare system that benefitted people from all walks of life. They are called benefits for a reason.
 
 
# mealer 2012-10-07 19:48
Tory-rule,Labour rule.Whats the difference.They both want to spend our money on nuclear weapons rather than education.
The SNP policy on tuition fees,prescripti on charges and means testing isnt some sort of far-left radical thinking.Its middle ground stuff where Labour,the Libdems and,for that matter,a lot of the tory party used to be and still should be.And where a lot of decent societies around the world strive to be.
 
 
# sneckedagain 2012-10-07 19:56
We must look to the big picture.

We are now into a phase in which our enemies are reduced to telling lies - and by and large getting away with them as the mainstream media willingly and enthusiatically repeats them.
We've had plenty recently.
Ian Duncan Smiths nonsense on benefits.
The turnout at the Independence Rally.
The SOS front page misrepresentati on of Alex Neil's remarks today.
It is becoming a daily occurrence.

All of the above are examples of demonstrable lies - and many of them are deployed as our enemies become emboldened by lack of exposing of them.

This gives us an opportunity.
If we can establish firmly that they are making fools of the Scottish people by feeding them lies the effect will be massive.
No one likes having their plonkers pulled - and they like even less being exposed as being easily fooled by allowing this to happen to them.

I have written often about the "half-wit" factor in Scottish politics.

We have to establish that only the foolish allow themselves to be suckered by the lies - or , to put it another way, intelligent and well informed people who know the facts and who are not fooled by infantile lies are in the YES camp.

It only takes us to expose widely a couple of big lies to set this process into action. Then NOTHING they say is readily believed.
After that it is easy to get the actual true facts into wide circulation - the most important of these being that Scotland is a self supporting country. It is doubt about this which still is the biggest drag on our advance.
Dave McEwan Hill
 
 
# Don 2012-10-07 20:02
What next? you will have to pay to see your doctor or even pay to stay in hospital. Scary!!!
 
 
# Jiggsbro 2012-10-07 20:28
You're surely not expecting to keep getting those things for nothing, while public sector workers and hard-working families are having to pay for millionaires to get a free bus ride to the university of their choice?

Only Scottish Labour can ensure you'll be able to pay for those things with whatever you have left after they've raised the council tax. You can't have something for nothing. It's time for a 'nothing for something' society, because there's always someone else to blame; scrounging OAPs, the disabled, students, immigrants...you know, them. Not you. Obviously.
 
 
# Iaincraig 2012-10-07 20:50
Aye well I had the temerity to elect to look after my increasingly incapable mither at home and had to give up my job to do so. It was a fatal move!

I have only succeeded in in making myself a figure of fear and hate in the Brit MSM. Worse I compounded my sins by not blowing my savings and hers by putting her in an private old folks home to be fleeced by the friends of the British ConDemLab Alliance Party. How selfish and uncaring of me.

I commited an even more henious crime though in withdrawing my services from the tax paying population I am no longer contributing to the Trident Fund.

My sins get worse in that I have my mither make use of a bus pass so that I dont have to spend money on petrol and thus deprive the British Olympian Trident Fund of even more cash. I will no doubt burn in the proverbial.
 
 
# arabest 2012-10-07 20:58
choose hope not fear - should be a rallying cry for the Yes campaign
 
 
# Glasgow 2012-10-07 23:55
It is now! :)
 
 
# cuckooshoe 2012-10-07 21:25
the more huff'n'guff from the unionist camp the more determined i am to vote yes to independence and save universal benefits
 
 
# pmcrek 2012-10-07 23:14
They are trying to say we pay tax for illegal wars, weapons of mass destruction, corporate bail outs, BAE contracts in Saudi Arabia, MI6 Spying on behalf of British companies abroad, Quangos, failed IT systems, MPs expenses and the royal family. Anything else we get for our money apparently its mooching of the state.

Most likely they are saying this because they want to spend our money on free things for themselves and their friends instead of spending it on the priorities of the people who gave them it all in the first place.

We can however shut them up by not voting for them, showing them that we pay for the things we get thank you very much and we are sick of you constantly mooching from us.
 
 
# Leswil 2012-10-08 07:02
I do not like the personal nature of Lamont's attacks on Sturgeon And Salmond, it is below belt politics, not new for labour of course.
However, does anyone know the income of the Lamont household?

She has her wage and works under maiden name for some reason, but her husband is also a top councillor in Glasgow Council.

So I would suspect that the money coming into their household would be substantial.

Include their "expenses" and any "wage" from any Quangos that either she or her husband maybe on the board of.

All in all a very good annual income will be available to them.
So, anyone with a clue how much this could actually be?
 
 
# cjmasta 2012-10-08 09:24
I just watched Ruth Davidson at the conservative conference say that free prescriptions cost lives no less and that people don`t really notice the benefits anyway. What planet is she on?
 
 
# NkosiEcosse 2012-10-08 10:58
Quoting cjmasta:
I just watched Ruth Davidson at the conservative conference say that free prescriptions cost lives no less and that people don`t really notice the benefits anyway. What planet is she on?

A well known fact, women are from Venus and men from Mars, if this is indeed the case then perhaps Ruth and Johann will do us the service of returning to Venus.
 
 
# drumsmudden 2012-10-08 11:36
Sorry I can"t do the blue click.
Try The Atlantic.Com and read the article
"The myth of Entitlements That ruin Countries"
 
 
# snowthistle 2012-10-08 12:27
 
 
# Dundonian West 2012-10-08 12:42
There are reasons why people in Scotland don’t vote Tory.
Now they can stop voting Labour for precisely the same reasons.
 
 
# Breeks 2012-10-08 14:20
In economic terms, there is one big sum which I cannot resolve because a piece of the puzzle is missing.

When you buy a house, or build a house, (same difference) you commit yourself to spending a lot of your hard earned income to pay for it. For what you actually spend on the house, over time you will pay more in fees, mortgage interest and tax. Now when all this money pours out of your world and enters into the realm of the banks and financiers,I don't see where the cycle closes and where all of that money comes back in to refuel the economy again. It's gone. The financiers lend more and more money, make more and more money in interest, but where does it all go? It's become detached from any value, it's money for money's sake. What value is being added to anything? What is it being invested into? -It isn't your property - that's been built as cheaply as possible and is only planned to last 50 or 60 years.

It's a break with tradition to pass so much of our income on to financiers, when in former times, we would have invested much more of that money into our local communities, buying goods locally and employing local people. That is the change which I believe is responsible for destabilising our economy. All our collective capacity to support our traditional communities via daily, low level investment in local commerce is now removed by corporate businesses like banks and supermarkets.
The money which should properly be circulating through our economy just isn't there. We've created a massive imbalance in distribution of wealth, and it urgently needs to be redestributed, but there is nothing of adequate value to reward it's release.
Money has to reconnect with the concept of value, which means we all have to start redefining what value for money actually means. That's an expression which we've all heard before, but I really mean it. We need to stop these rediculous 'pick a number' property valuations, and reconnect house prices with much more objective values. It's insane that we allow mortgage lenders to regulate and set house prices.

Frankly, I don't see any parties facing up to this issue, and I can't blame them because what I believe has to happen is quite scary. An independent Scotland is very important however, because there remain genuine commodities in Scotland which have objective value. I believe are going to need them - which is no cause for alarm unless we are denied the benefit of having them as we currently are in the Union.
I don't see any down-side to being Independent. I cannot say the same for staying in the Union which squanders our resources very cheaply.
With appropriate redistribution of this capital, we would be the wealthy Nation we have the opportunity to become, and our economy would meet the costs of these universal benefits at the canter. We NEED independence to fix it.
 
 
# cuckooshoe 2012-10-23 00:05
dailymail.co.uk/.../...

Child benefit cuts 'heading for chaos': Reforms are so complicated even the taxman can't explain them

the article has this quote

''Cathy Jamieson, Labour’s Treasury spokesman, said: ‘For hundreds of thousands of parents on middle incomes, who face losing every penny of their child benefit in just a few weeks’ time, this is no laughing matter.
 

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