Labour ditches universalism as Scots declare support for Holyrood control of welfare and taxes


   By a Newsnet reporter

A major study on political opinions and the constitution by the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, published by ScotCen, shows that the majority of people in Scotland want welfare and taxation decided by the Scottish Parliament.

The findings show that of the constitutional options on offer, independence is the most popular option with support at 35%. Devo-Max is 32%, and the status quo 24%.

The report also shows that left-centre voters believe most strongly in Holyrood having responsibility for welfare and tax powers.  ScotCen authors Rachel Ormston and John Curtice conclude those who are on the political left are more likely to think that the Scottish Parliament should decide on taxes and benefits.

The report’s authors say their findings show that arguments from left-leaning Unionist parties against devolving welfare do not appear to have any traction with left-leaning voters in Scotland – a finding which will be worrying for the Labour party, which recently launched its own anti-independence campaign separate from the “Better Together” campaign which also counts with official backing from the party.

The report’s authors said:

“Those who are politically furthest to the left in terms of their general beliefs are, if anything, more likely to think the Scottish Parliament should decide on taxes (68%, compared with 45% of those furthest to the right) and are no less likely than those further to the right to feel that Holyrood should decide benefits (67%, compared with 52-70% of those further to the right).

“Thus arguments from left-leaning Unionist parties against devolving welfare in order to maintain solidarity of shared rights and resources across the UK do not necessarily appear to resonate with left-leaning members of the public.”

In the week that Labour has turned its back on the party’s traditional commitment to universalism, the SNP and Greens have highlighted how the research shows people are recognising that Westminster isn’t working for Scotland.

With devo-max off the table and only timid and conflicting proposals for possible further devolution being presented by the anti-independence parties – which are increasingly adopting Conservative policies and rhetoric on a range of social and welfare issues – the task for the Yes campaign is to persuade supporters of devo-max that the only secure means of ensuring substantial extra powers for the Scottish Parliament is to vote Yes in September 2014.

Linda Fabiani, member of the Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee, said:

“This survey confirms that independence is the most popular option, and the only way to achieve more powers for Scotland is to vote Yes in the referendum.

“This study also highlights that Labour are out of step with their own potential supporters on the issue of transferring welfare and tax powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament.

“Labour have joined with the Tories in supporting cuts and abandoning the principle of universal benefits – and the only way to safeguard the welfare state in Scotland is by voting Yes next September.

“Scotland has paid more tax per head than the UK average in every one of the last 30 years – and official figures show that Scotland subsidises the rest of the UK, not the other way round – yet Labour are now talking about having lower welfare payments in Scotland than the south of England.

“Already, a majority of people in Scotland believe that welfare and pensions policy and taxation should be decided by Holyrood not Westminster – and the Tory-Labour alliance on welfare cuts shows why having control in Scotland is essential.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said it is increasingly clear that left-leaning voters who care about social justice should vote Yes in next year’s independence referendum.

Mr Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow and Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said:

“This new analysis confirms that Labour politicians are out of step with many of their natural supporters. Voters won’t be fooled by suggestions that a better society is only possible by keeping Scotland tied to Westminster.

“It’s increasingly clear to those of us who value the welfare state, fair taxation and high quality public services that a Yes vote is the best chance of protecting those values. If we vote No, further devolution to Scotland will be off the UK parties’ agenda for a generation. By that time there could be nothing left of the welfare state to save, and inequality in our society would be dramatically worse. It’s vital that we don’t make that mistake.”