Council Tax and ‘Something for nothing’ denial pile pressure on Lamont

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  By a Newsnet reporter

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has come under more pressure to clarify her stance on the council tax freeze after a newly published poll showed that an overwhelming number of Scots support the policy.

The Panelbase poll for online site Wings over Scotland showed that 82% of people support the freeze, including 75% of Labour voters.

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson – who convenes the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee – has called on the Scottish Labour party leader to clarify her party’s position on the Council Tax freeze after recent declarations by herself and others in her party appeared to contradict each other.

The nationalists claim that Johann Lamont has been left badly exposed on the issue, after revealing that she thinks the freeze isn’t working – despite her party clearly campaigning in favour of the policy in the final days of last week’s Dunfermline by-election.

In the Dunfermline by-election, Labour insisted it continued to support the council tax feeze in leaflets distributed by the party.  Labour’s winning candidate Cara Hilton also boasted that her party were the first to introduce the freeze.

However the party’s confused stance continued after it emerged that one senior Labour MSP has appeared on video claiming never to have backed the freeze, describing it as “a bribe”.

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie told a local audience: “I have to say I have never agreed with the freeze in the council tax, ever … OK.”

Pressure has also mounted on Johann Lamont after the Scottish Labour leader claimed in a TV interview, never to have claimed people in Scotland who receive benefits were getting “something for nothing”.

Johann Lamont denies saying Scots get “something for nothing”

However her claims have been called into question after copies of a speech she gave in September 2012 showed the Labour MSP had indeed made such a suggestion.  In the speech, which had been removed from the Labour party website but retrieved from internet archives, Ms Lamont told her audience:

“Alex Salmond is quick to point to the high levels of welfare in Scandinavia but those universal benefits are paid for by high levels of taxation.  Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world.”

Ms Lamont’s denials suffered a further blow when it emerged the Labour MSP herself had admitted making the comment whilst being interviewed by the BBC.

Lamont confirms she said Scotland is a “something for nothing country”

The row has led to claims of dishonesty being levelled against Labour with the party’s chief opponent in Scotland accusing them of having a “contempt for honesty”.

Commenting, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said:

“To go from publishing leaflets proclaiming the Labour party’s support for the council tax freeze one day, to wanting to axe it just 72 hours later is simply treating people like fools.

“And while Johann Lamont might now regret making her ill-judged ‘something for nothing’ attack on people in Scotland, for her to flatly deny having used the phrase is breath-taking in its arrogance.

“People in Scotland are quite clear that they back the SNP’s council tax freeze and want it to continue.  Johann Lamont has left her and her party badly exposed by ignoring their wishes and seeking to axe the policy.

“While Labour is simply getting itself into more of a muddle, the SNP will continue to deliver the council tax freeze and the rest of our social contract which is providing such critical help to household budgets.”