By a Newsnet reporter
Labour’s incoherence and confusion on Scotland deepened this weekend after leader Ed Miliband made a speech in which he claimed that UK coalition policies would cost the average family £580 a year.
However, despite this admission, Mr Miliband then appeared to contradict himself by insisting that Scots were still better off under a Westminster government.
The Labour leader made the comments in a speech to the Welsh Labour conference in Cardiff where he cited a study from the think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which showed that the average family with children will lose £580 a year from April due to changes being implemented by the Conservative – Lib Dem Coalition.
Mr Miliband said: “On current forecasts, the average worker will be earning the same in three years’ time as they were ten years ago, but the weekly shop costs more, it costs a lot more to keep the house warm and we have a government that doesn’t believe that its job is to stand up for ordinary people against powerful vested interests.
“What is their answer to the crisis of living standards? Cutting taxes for the banks while they raise taxes on ordinary families, higher VAT, cuts to tax credits.
“As the IFS have confirmed today, this April the Government is hitting an average family with children for £580. Choosing to squeeze the squeezed middle yet again.”
His comments follow a recent pledge he gave when speaking in the House of Commons in January in which he promised the Coalition government “100%” support in its fight to maintain the Union. Like the Conservative led Coalition, Mr Miliband’s Labour party insists that it will not discuss any details of promised greater powers for the Scottish Parliament unless Scots vote against independence in the 2014 referendum.
Kenneth Gibson, SNP MSP for Cunninghame North, described the Labour leader’s latest comments as “confused and hypocritical”. Accusing the Labour party of being “in cahoots” with the Tories on Scotland’s constitutional and economic future, Mr Gibson added:
“Between their UK leader Ed Miliband, and their Scottish leader Johann Lamont, they are all at sixes and sevens. It’s hardly inspiring to say families will be better off under Westminster government when they also say it is making them £580 poorer.
“Labour are unable to square the circle of supporting the Tories on Scotland’s constitutional and economic future whilst attacking them for making people worse off in the UK.
“In contrast the Scottish Government is providing help for households in tough times through our social wage, supporting vital public services in the face of severe Westminster cuts, whilst offering the people of Scotland a positive alternative with a say on their nation’s future in a referendum on Scottish Independence.
“The people of Scotland deserve better and will not buy into this contradictory message which only exposes the complete lack of relevance of the Labour party in the debate on Scotland’s future.”
Polls have shown that two thirds of Scots want either full independence or a settlement that would see all powers, with the exception of Foreign Affairs and Defence, return to Scotland.
The SNP have argued for the Scottish Parliament to take control of the tax and benefits system in the interim saying it would allow them to protect Scottish families from Conservative led economic policies.