After 50p no-show Labour urged to put people before party tribalism

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By a Newsnet reporter

Labour have been challenged to put people before tribal politics and support an SNP amendment to the Budget Bill which would deliver relief on soaring fuel prices.

The SNP’s proposals for a regulator would freeze fuel duty increases as oil prices rise with a parallel reduction in duty to match the extra revenue from VAT from higher pump prices.  The proposal has been backed by the Road Haulage Association.

Earlier this week, a tweet by Labour’s shadow Scotland office minister Willie Bain revealed that there “is a long-standing PLP convention that we do not support SNP motions”.  The admission followed Labour’s failure to oppose a Tory tax cut for millionaires because the division had been called by the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

The admission from Mr Bain prompted accusations from the SNP that Labour was driven by party tribalism.  The SNP claimed Labour puts its hatred of the SNP above all other considerations, even to the extent of voting against policies they might otherwise support, such as the proposals for mininum pricing on alcohol.  Labour south of the Border has now U-turned on minimum pricing, but the party in Scotland, where the policy is associated with the SNP government, maintains its opposition.

SNP Transport spokesperson at Westminster, Angus MacNeil MP, said the SNP amendment which would introduce a Fuel Duty Regulator was now a key test for Labour.

Mr MacNeil said:

“Willie Bain’s astonishing admission is a sad reflection on where the Labour party has gone wrong, and goes some way to explaining his party’s drubbing in the Bradford West by-election.

“In the face of economic uncertainty and damaging Tory cuts, people want politicians to work together.  Even when it came to voting against a Tory tax cut for millionaires, Labour could not put its kneejerk negativity towards the SNP aside in the interests of ordinary working people.

“They abstained when the SNP opposed the Tories tax cut for millionaires last week.  I would appeal to Labour to rise above the tribal politics of grudge and grievance and support our proposals for a fuel duty regulator which will deliver action on soaring fuel prices.

“We urgently need, not just a cut in duty, but the introduction of a fuel duty regulator to permanently bring prices under control.  With the bulk of the pump price made up of tax, the Treasury must stop this highway robbery because soaring fuel prices are hindering economic recovery.

“In 2008, George Osborne launched plans for a ‘Fair Fuel Stabiliser’, describing it as a ‘common sense plan’.  As well as being common sense, it is unanswerable and fair for Scotland, given that we pay among the highest fuel prices in Europe even as Scottish oil revenues surge into the UK Exchequer.

“With record North Sea oil and gas revenues flowing to the Treasury, we need to see stable fuel prices for ordinary people, hauliers and businesses through a fuel duty regulator.

“Labour should support the SNP’s proposal and put people before narrow politics.  A failure to work constructively, as we saw in Bradford West, will rebound very badly on them.

“Whether Labour supports us or not, the SNP will oppose the Tories’ unfair Budget which punishes pensioners and public sector workers and does nothing to stimulate the economy.  This was not a budget for Scotland and is proof of the urgent need for Scotland to have control over financial powers with independence.”