By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has come under fire after appearing to deny ever having claimed Scotland was a “something for nothing” country.
The Scottish Labour leader made the claim whilst appearing on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics programme where she was asked about universal benefits.
Responding to questions on a speech she gave last year in which she attacked what she described as Scotland’s “Something for nothing” culture, Ms Lamont said:
“I have never said that some people get something for nothing. What I’ve said is that you have to look at both what you spend money on and what are the consequences of that.”
Johann Lamont denies saying people get “something for nothing”
However the SNP has seized on the Labour MSP’s denials and pointed to a speech she gave in September 2012 in which the Scottish Labour leader specifically attacked a “something for nothing” culture.
Last week Labour faced accusations that they misled the electorate when a leaflet was distributed in the Dunfermline by-election that appeared to suggest the party were in favour of many universal benefits including the council tax freeze. However the party has come under pressure to clarify its stance on the council tax freeze when the head of its own commission Professor Arthur Midwinter, looking at affordability of universal benefits, attacked the policy.
SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said:
“Johann Lamont is trying to re-write history. She appeared to deny that she had ever used the expression ‘something for nothing’ – and the entire ‘something for nothing’ speech has been airbrushed from the Labour Party’s website.
“But Ms Lamont did say it. It was the central part of what was described as a major speech made in September last year.”
In a surprise speech one year ago Ms Lamont claimed that free prescriptions, free concessionary travel and free tuition for Scottish based students were unaffordable and could be scrapped if Labour were re-elected in Scotland.
Lamont attacked universal benefits in 2012
Speaking to Labour members in Edinburgh, the Scottish Labour leader accused benefit recipients of living in a “something for nothing country” and claimed it had to end.
“We need to ask different questions and face up to the honest answers.
“For the last decade Scotland’s budgets have grown rapidly but we are in a new age with less money and more demands.
“We need to say what we want Scotland to be, what we can realistically afford, and how can we, in reality, make Scotland better.” she said.
Calling into question, free university education, the Scottish Labour leader added: “How do we address the current unjust imbalance that exists between the funding of higher and further education; we need to be honest about the sustainability of ‘free’ higher education, and the impact it will have on academic standards.”
The Scottish Labour leader hinted at a return to means testing and criticised the universality of free prescriptions for chief executives and free University education for the offspring of lawyers and judges.
Ms Fabiani added: “At the time it was suggested this could become a disastrous approach for her, as Labour adopted the Westminster agenda of cuts, cuts and more cuts – hitting the vulnerable and abandoning hard fought for universal benefits.
“So it is no surprise that Johann Lamont seems to want to forget and distance herself from that disastrous speech. But it makes it impossible to believe a single word Labour say.
“Scottish Labour is now in a mess about its Cuts Commission. Contrary to what Labour tried to pretend in Dunfermline, and despite Ms Lamont’s denial of her own words, they are clearly proposing a cuts agenda to Scotland’s public services.
“These gains of the Scottish Parliament – services delivered by the SNP government – are already effectively and efficiently managed. Labour need to come clean about what they want to cut, and Johann Lamont needs to be honest about what she said.”