Labour leadership contenders criticised for abandoning parliament on strike day to seek votes


By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Labour MSPs have been accused of hypocrisy by refusing to attend the Scottish parliament on the day a motion is put to the chamber calling for the UK coalition pension plans to be formally condemned.
Labour MSPs, including two of the candidates vying to replace outgoing front man Iain Gray, have instead decided not to turn up.  The move has led to accusations that they are trying to curry favour with Unions.

Ahead of the public sector strikes the SNP said its MSPs would raise concerns over the UK Government’s cash grab on public sector pensions in Parliament and send a clear message to the UK Government that Scotland does not back this tax on public sector workers.

Speaking ahead of the debate in the Scottish Parliament, which will coincide with a rally by unions in Scotland outside Holyrood, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said

“The UK government’s plans are a naked cash grab.  This is not about protecting pensions it is about paying off the UK Government’s debts.

“The Scottish parliament has the opportunity today to make clear that we do not support the Tory/Lib Dem government’s actions and that they should put a stop to these plans immediately.

“Many people will suffer disruption today because instead of sitting down and negotiating with the unions the UK Government talked up the strike and encouraged strike action.

“And as SNP MSPs, we will speak up in our parliament for all of those taking action to condemn the UK Government’s plans as we must also represent those in the private sector who have seen their pensions devastated by the financial collapse of recent years.

“Everyone should have the opportunity of a decent retirement and it is disappointing that the UK Government’s proposals are more about paying off their debts than protecting pensions.

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson also spoke out on the decision of some MSPs not to attend Parliament, saying:

“There have been strikes under UK Labour and Tory Governments and Labour MSPs have attended parliament and done their jobs.”

Last week Labour leader Ed Miliband refused to endorse the strike action and insisted it was the duty of opposition politicians to attend parliament on strike day in order to confront the decision of the Tory / Lib Dem coalition.

Ms McKelvie added:

“It is utterly hypocritical that when Labour MPs are attending Westminster, when Scottish Labour MPs including the former Prime Minister are leading debates in Westminster, and when the UK Labour leader says he does not support the strike; for Labour MSPs in search of leadership votes to abandon Parliament for a day.

“The Scottish Parliament should be the voice of Scotland and MSPs should attend parliament, join the debate and help send the strongest possible message from Holyrood to Westminster that the UK Government’s actions are not acceptable.

“Tomorrow the SNP will hold the Tories and Lib Dems accountable for their actions and call on the UK Government to reverse its short term pensions cash grab.”

The motion to be debated is as follows:

*S4M-01440 John Swinney: Public Sector PensionsThat the Parliament recognises and appreciates the valuable work done by Scotland’s public sector workers; notes the importance of pensions that are affordable, sustainable and fair and believes that long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership; registers its strong opposition to the UK Government’s decision to impose a general levy on pension contributions and considers this to be a cash grab for the purposes of deficit reduction rather than a move to secure the long-term sustainability of public sector pensions; regrets the fact that UK ministers appear to be relishing the prospect of strike action, which will cause major disruption and inconvenience to ordinary members of the public across Scotland; condemns the UK Government’s threat to cut Scotland’s budget by £100 million next year alone, on top of drastic cuts to Scotland’s budget, if the Scottish Government does not implement the UK Government’s immediate levy on pensions contributions, and calls on the UK Government to reverse its short-term pensions cash grab.