By Martin Kelly
The former Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party has condemned his party’s defence of Tory pension and welfare plans.
Bob Thomson, who has been a member of Labour for more than fifty years, described comments from Margaret Curran as “meaningless and wrong” after the Labour MP claimed independence would leave Scots poorer.
Shadow Scottish secretary Curran said a Yes vote would mean massive cuts in public spending north and that those least well off would be hit hardest.
Ms Curran said: “The experts are clear – if we leave the UK we would have to make massive cuts in public spending. This would hit those who have the least the hardest.
She added: “Leaving the UK would be a leap in the dark for those reliant on benefits or their pension.”
The comments from the Labour MP came as the anti-independence campaign Better Together, which includes the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems, published a new paper on pensions.
However Curran’s claim that Scots would be better off even with a Tory Government, than if independent were slammed by the former Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party.
Bob Thomson said:
“It is a sad day when the Labour Party are praising a Tory pensions and welfare system that is being dismantled before our eyes – no wonder over a third of Labour voters already plan to vote Yes in September, because we can deliver a better deal for older people and a genuine welfare state in an independent Scotland.
“It is extraordinary that Labour are describing as secure a UK welfare system which is cutting £6 billion from welfare support in Scotland, directly cutting benefits to women, children, disabled people and poorer pensioners and which will mean that an additional 100,000 children could be in poverty by 2020 according to the Child Poverty Action Group.
“Margaret Curran herself has called the Tory welfare cuts ‘brutal’ which will cause ‘misery for families across Scotland’ – yet the Labour leadership prefer Tory government in Scotland to self-government with independence.”
Speaking in August 2012, Curran claimed UK Government’s policies were costing Scottish households £450 per year.
“The Tory-led Government’s catalogue of errors is turning into a catalogue of misery for families across Scotland,” she told the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations.
Ms Curran said the Coalition’s £18 billion of welfare cuts, £2bn of which would fall north of the Border, would have a “brutal effect on Scotland”.
Mr Thompson added: “Pensions will be paid on time and in full in an independent Scotland, triple-locked to at least keep pace with the cost of living, and we will also have the powers to review Westminster’s unfair plans to increase the age when people get the state pension.
“That’s why the Scottish Social Attitudes survey shows that 63 per cent of people want pensions policy to be decided in Scotland, not by Westminster. In standing with the Tories on cuts to pensions and welfare, Labour are standing against the people.”
In May this year, UK Pensions Minister Steve Webb confirmed that pensions would continue to be paid in full regardless of a Yes vote.
Asked by Labour MP Ian Davidson if, following independence, “people themselves could be assured that their pensions are secure” Mr Webb replied “Yes”.
He said: “You don’t have to be a UK citizen to get a UK pension. So we will obviously, for the people who have put national insurance into our system, we would pay them a pension wherever they lived so separation wouldn’t affect that… You could retire to France and we’d just pay you a pension, so where you end up isn’t material, because you’ve paid into the system.”