By a Newsnet reporter
The leader of the Scottish Labour party has been condemned after appearing to describe issues such as Trident, the Bedroom Tax and the war in Iraq as “wee things”.
Johann Lamont was responding to comments from First Minister Alex Salmond who had listed areas he said Scotland would control in the event of independence.
Mr Salmond argued that independence would allow the Scottish Parliament to take decisions on the minimum wage, abolish the bedroom tax, introduce revolutionary childcare, remove Trident nuclear weapons and prevent illegal wars.
However his Labour counterpart dismissed the list, and said: “This is a ludicrous defence by a man who used to cry freedom and now gives us a list of wee things that we could do …
To howls of angry derision from the SNP benches, the Scottish Labour leader added: “I’m not sure the bravehearts amongst this SNP imagined that the reason they wanted independence was because of childcare.”
Edited clip showing the key moments of the exchange
Ms Lamont was immediately criticised for the throwaway remark – which her officials claimed was a slip of the tongue – with SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing saying the Labour MSP should feel ashamed of herself.
Commenting, Ms Ewing said:
“It has been a bad week for the No campaign but it’s just got an awful lot worse – Johann Lamont should be ashamed of herself.
“Would she say to the vulnerable family who are being targeted by the Bedroom Tax that it is simply a ‘wee thing’ that Scotland does not need control over?
“And what about our soldiers being dragged into illegal wars, weapons of mass destruction being dumped on our shores and the means to tackle poverty and inequality – these too, according to Johann Lamont, are just ‘wee things’.
“The people of Scotland will be rightly aghast at this and won’t buy into the fact this was an apparent ‘slip of the tongue’.
“We all remember her denial that she had ever used the expression ‘something for nothing’ despite the fact it was the central part of what was described as her major speech. It becomes more and more evident we cannot believe a word the Labour party says.”
The gaffe by the Scottish Labour leader follows similar remarks from the party’s deputy leader in Scotland. Earlier this month Labour MP Anas Sarwar described the Iraq war and Trident nuclear weapons as “trivial” matters.
Ms Ewing added: “This one comment highlights the lack of vision and ambition the Labour party has for Scotland – and will only serve to boost a Yes vote.
“Independence will allow us to improve our economy, scrap the Bedroom Tax, remove nuclear weapons and transform childcare – these are not “wee things” but are exactly what people care about and what affect people’s lives.”
According to the SNP, gains from independence whichever party is elected include:
•Decisions about Scotland will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland those who live and work here
•A Parliament elected by people in Scotland will replace one where representatives from Scotland make up 9 per cent of the 650 members of the House of Commons; the House of Lords is wholly unelected
•Governments will always be formed by parties that win elections in Scotland. Key decisions for Scotland will not be made by governments without the support of the Scottish electorate
•A guarantee that tax and social security rates will be set by the Scottish Parliament, elected by the people of Scotland. Policies like the “bedroom tax” will no longer be imposed on Scotland
•Public services can be kept in public hands. The Scottish Parliament has kept the NHS public but could not stop Westminster privatising the Royal Mail
•An economic policy approach to promote economic stability and job security in Scotland will replace a framework which disproportionately benefits London and the South East of England
•Access to our own resources – for every one of the last 32 years estimates show Scotland has generated more tax per head than the UK as a whole. With independence, decisions about public spending will be taken here in Scotland
•Economic policy tailored to Scotland, for example our world-class universities and key growth industries like food and drink, life sciences, and tourism
•An independent Scotland can invest our oil wealth for future generations. Norway now has a savings fund worth more than £470 billion
•Our taxes will not be used to pay for nuclear weapons and we can remove Trident from Scotland for good
Gains from independence – if the current SNP government is the first government after independence:
•Childcare extended to give our children the best start in life, make it easier for parents – especially mothers – to return to work and deliver new job opportunities
•Abolition of the “bedroom tax” to save 82,500 households in Scotland – including 63,500 households with a disabled adult and 15,500 households with children – an average of £50 per month
•Stopping the rollout of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments in Scotland
•The first steps towards a fairer tax system: basic rate tax allowances and tax credits rise at least in line with inflation; ending of the married couples tax allowance and abolishing the Shares for Rights scheme
•Pensioners’ incomes protected with the triple lock so that pensions increase every year by either inflation, earnings, or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest
•Simplification of the tax system to costs and tax avoidance, with a target of £250 million extra revenue a year by the end of the first term of an independent Scottish Parliament
•Return of the Royal Mail to public ownership in Scotland, guaranteeing the quality of service that all parts of our country currently enjoy
•A Fair Work Commission and a guarantee that the minimum wage will rise at least in line with inflation. Over the last five years, this would have improved the earnings of the lowest paid people in Scotland by the equivalent of £675. Continued support for the living wage
•A timetable, produced within the first term, for reducing the rate of corporation tax by up to three percentage points to counter the business pull of London
•Examining further help for small businesses, for example the potential to increase the employment allowance, which would cut national insurance costs and encourage more jobs
•Reduction in Air Passenger Duty by 50 per cent, with a view to abolishing it when public finances allow
•Support for energy efficiency and the roll out of green technology to reduce energy bills by around 5 per cent