Lamont’s leadership in crisis as Scottish Labour riven by splits over more powers


  By a Newsnet reporter
Johann Lamont’s leadership of Scottish Labour has been thrust into the spotlight following a rift at the heart of her party over proposals for more powers for Scotland if there is a No vote in the independence referendum.
Within the last couple of days, a series of senior figures within the party have made clear their hostility to proposals put forward by Ms Lamont for financial powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Yesterday Ms Lamont’s former finance spokesman Ken Macintosh attacked plans put forward by his leader for the Scottish Parliament to be given full control over income tax.

He said: “The welfare state, our NHS, provision for pensions and much more depend on a sense of shared national interest.  Going too far in devolving tax or benefits risks fragmenting the system and breaking down that shared sense of our common future.

“For reasons of economic as well as political and social cohesion, we should continue to exercise joint decision-making on income tax.”

Mr Macintosh has now been joined by Labour MP Ian Davidson who has also voiced opposition to his leader’s ambitions.

Speaking to the Daily Record, Davidson said: “I have major reservations about what the impact of transferring tax-raising powers would be.  A substantial number of Scottish MPs have reservations for various reasons.”

The Glasgow Labour MP also warned that any transfer of income tax powers could see the end of the Barnett funding formula, which would cost Scotland billions of pounds.

They follow similar comments from Labour MP Thomas Docherty MP who in January said there wasn’t “any support at Westminster” for Scotland to receive more devolved powers and that the referendum was a choice “between separation and the settled system of devolution.”

The interventions by two senior Labour party figures who lost the leadership and deputy leadership roles for Scottish Labour in 2011 to Ms Lamont and Anas Sarwar respectively, comes as it emerges another Labour politician who sits on Johann Lamont’s Devolution Commission has also appeared to rule out more powers.

Two days ago, Labour councillor Willie Young signalled his own opposition to more powers when he tweeted that a reason to stay in the Union was “what you have today”.

Commenting, Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White said: 
“As well as underlining Labour opposition to more powers for the Scottish Parliament, the hostility of Ian Davidson, Thomas Docherty, Ken Macintosh and Willie Young to financial powers for Scotland represents a clear challenge to Johann Lamont’s leadership. 
“The splits between Labour at Westminster and Holyrood in particular have undermined Johann Lamont’s authority from the beginning, but they clearly go far wider than that.
“The fact that a member of Johann Lamont’s own devolution commission has gone public on social media advocating the status quo shows that it would be foolish to expect anything significant from Labour – especially when Ms Lamont herself referred to reserved issues like the minimum wage and the Bedroom Tax as ‘wee things’.”

Last week the Scottish Labour leader came under fire after appearing to suggest that the Iraq War, nuclear weapons and the Bedroom Tax were only ‘wee things’.  Her comments caused uproar with Scottish Labour party officials later claiming the comment by Ms Lamont had been a slip of the tongue.

Mr White added: “For people across Scotland suffering from the policies of a Tory government we didn’t vote for, the status quo is not an option.  These latest comments from a series of senior Labour figures demonstrate what we already know – that only a Yes vote guarantees more powers for Scotland.”