Labour MSP Ken Macintosh left red faced as Amazon attack backfires

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  By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has accused the Scottish Labour party of hypocrisy after Labour’s finance spokesperson Ken Macintosh attacked the Scottish Government over its use of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) which helped online firm Amazon bring a significant volume of jobs to Fife.

At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Macintosh criticised the Scottish Government’s decision to award £10 million to Amazon “given its apparent unwillingness to pay the correct levels of corporation tax to this country”.

However the Labour MSP was left embarrassed when it emerged his own party had previously given grants to the same company, and as recently as a few months ago one of Mr Macintosh’s own party colleagues called for grants such as that made to Amazon to continue.

Responding to Mr Macintosh’s attack, First Minister Alex Salmond replied:

“Amazon were awarded support by the former Labour administration in Scotland and by the present Labour administration in Wales, who are boasting of their success and role in attracting Amazon investment to Wales.

Mr Salmond then reminded the chamber that Mr Macintosh’s own party colleague, MSP Helen Eadie, had herself called for a continuation of the very financial support Scottish Labour were now criticising.

“Can I also reflect on the words of Helen Eadie, who was so concerned at the threat to investment grants to the Scottish Government, as she saw it, from the European Commission that she wrote to the Commissioner on December 13 saying: ‘Amazon’s recent decision to locate significant operations in part of my own area in Fife, which has suffered a severe lack of job opportunities, is just one example of an investment that is put at risk if RSA (Regional Selective Assistance) is limited to small and medium sized companies’.

“So while Ken Macintosh is telling us that we shouldn’t be generating these thousands of jobs in Scotland, Helen Eadie is warning us that we must absolutely continue grants for Amazon.”

In a motion to the Scottish Parliament in December 2012, Ms Eadie called for all MSPs to join her in writing to the European Commission in a bid at ensuring RSA could continue to be paid to companies such as Amazon.  Ms Eadie’s motion was supported by Labour’s Infrastructure & Capital Investment spokesman Richard Baker as well as Labour MSPs Anne McTaggart, John Pentland, David Stewart and Hanzala Malik.

Ken Macintosh’s intervention has led the SNP to accuse Labour of a “careless” attitude to people’s livelihoods as the party attempts to turn every issue into an attack on the nationalists.  The SNP also pointed out that the Scottish Parliament has no powers over business taxes, and said that Labour had 13 years in power at Westminster to address the issue, but did nothing about it.

Commenting, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said:

“This is a major embarrassment for the Labour party, revealing a split between the leadership and their backbenches.

“You would think Ken Macintosh, Labour’s Finance spokesperson, would recognise the benefit of attracting jobs and investment to Scotland, but his careless attitude toward the livelihoods of real people on the ground just goes to show how senior people in Labour will turn anything and everything into a political attack on the SNP.

“Helen Eadie rightly points out that the jobs that employers like Amazon bring to places like Fife are incredibly important.

“As of November, the distribution centre at Dunfermline has added 200 permanent and 600 temporary jobs to the labour market in Fife and the surrounding areas.

“Perhaps instead of rushing to make unthinking attacks, Ken Macintosh should ask the many people who have benefited from these new jobs whether they thought using RSA to bring Amazon to Fife was the right thing to do.

“Did they speak to their colleagues in Welsh Labour who in the past have also used grants to bring jobs from Amazon to Wales? Or did they simply charge in to make a ludicrous attack on the Scottish Government without stopping to think about the internal divisions it would create?

“If Labour was genuinely concerned about Westminster’s inability to ensure that companies pay their taxes, then they would be arguing for Scotland to gain the power to collect corporation tax.

“The simple fact is that Labour’s attacks have been exposed as utterly hollow and have only laid bare the confusion and hypocrisy that runs through the senior ranks of the party.”

In December 2012, Ms Eadie submitted the following motion:

That the Parliament understands that, in a matter of days, the European Commission may change the rules for Regional Selective Assistance funding that have to date provided for global companies employing more than 250 employees to attract financial support for locating in areas of high unemployment and is gravely concerned that this will mean that many companies will no longer locate to Scotland as Aviva and Amazon have done, thereby creating many hundreds of jobs in areas of high unemployment, and hopes that all MSPs and the Scottish Government will make representations to Commissioner Almunia urgently.