Andy Kerr’s election campaign has come under further fire over statements on the cost of knife crime.
In last week’s East Kilbride Mail, a spokesman for Labour’s Finance spokesman responded to criticism that literature circulated by Mr Kerr’s campaign team was highly inaccurate.
Mr Kerr’s spokesman dismissed as ‘a typo’ claims in Andy Kerr’s campaign literature that the NHS spent £3 billion treating knife crime victims in hospital.
The spokesman went on to claim that the £3 billion actually referred to the total cost of knife crime to Scotland.
However Mr Kerr’s opponent for the East Kilbride constituency has pointed out no source was given for this figure, and it does not match evidence already in the public domain.
SNP candidate Linda Fabiani has now written to Labour leader Iain Gray, asking if he backs up his Finance Spokesman on the cost of knife crime.
She has also demanded that the Labour leader clarify the party’s position on personal commitments being given by Andy Kerr to cancer patients and young people looking for work.
Linda Fabiani said:
“By their answer to the East Kilbride Mail, Andy Kerr’s team have elevated this issue from a dispute over what may have been a genuine typing error, to a question of trust.
“If Labour can so readily make up responses on such an important issue as knife crime, what trust can voters have that their policies have been properly developed and thought through.
“As has already been reported in the press, I have also challenged Andy for misleading young people looking for their first job and people concerned about cancer.
“If Andy thinks that by refusing to respond personally the issue of trust will simply go away, he couldn’t be more wrong.
“I have now written to Iain Gray demanding that he make Labour’s position clear. The whole of Scotland needs to know how desperate Labour are to cling to their votes, and what lengths they will go to do that.”
Letter to Iain Gray
I write to seek clarification of some issues regarding the Labour Manifesto, as your East Kilbride candidate – Andy Kerr, your Finance Spokesperson, has failed to respond to questions from my Election Agent and from voters.
My election agent wrote to Mr Kerr on three points in his campaign literature as distributed to households in East Kilbride:
1. Andy refers to knife crime costing £3 billion a year for 3,500 bed days. When challenged by the East Kilbride Mail over the figure of £3 billion, a spokesman for Labour dismissed it as ‘a typo’ and went on to say “knife crime costs the NHS £500 million and is estimated to cost the Scottish economy £3 billion”.
Having checked for reliable sources on the cost of crime in Scotland, I can find no reference to this £3 billion figure which is being used to back up your policy on knife crime. I would be obliged if you could advise on same.
2. Andy states that there is a ‘cast-iron’ guarantee that any patient suspected of cancer will be seen within two weeks. Can you advise how this guarantee will be delivered in the event that the normal NHS specialists are temporarily unable to meet their commitments? Is this ‘guarantee’ to be treated differently in terms of setting NHS objectives than other waiting time targets?
3. Andy has indicated that every young person ‘who wants one’ will get an apprenticeship. As apprenticeships in Scotland rely on employer recruitment, how will this commitment be delivered in the event that employers take the view that a young person is insufficiently qualified? Is it your intention to reclassify some college-based courses as ‘stand-alone’ apprenticeships with no direct employer involvement?
I believe that the initial contentions in Labour’s campaign leaflets in East Kilbride, coupled with the lack of response when questioned means that there is a serious issue of trust between candidate and electorate.
If the people of East Kilbride and Scotland cannot rely on statements made by your party’s Finance Spokesperson on such important issues, what faith can they put in the policy prescriptions your party is presenting for their consideration.
I am copying this letter to the CPPR and will ask them to comment on the cost of knife crime in their assessment of the various party manifestos.
In light of the local and national interest in this matter, I am releasing this letter to the press.