By Lynn Malone
A wall of silence from Scottish Labour has emerged following MSP Jackie Baillie’s claim that Labour are set confirm they will axe the Bedroom Tax if they win the next UK general election.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Ms Baillie was asked if a new Labour government would abolish the Bedroom Tax. Responding, she said: “We are very clear. Labour rejected this approach when it was put to them in government, for social landlords. We have campaigned for its abolition.
“Yes we will abolish it. My understanding is that you can expect an announcement relatively soon.”
However, following Ms Baillie’s comments London Labour has distanced itself from the Scottish Labour MSP, “It goes against what we are saying – we haven’t made that pledge to date,” their spokesperson said adding that Ms Baillie had “gone a bit too far”.
Despite the apparent slap-down, Newsnet Scotland failed to get a response from Ms Baillie or a single person from Scottish Labour. We wanted a comment on London’s stance and confirmation on whether Ms Baillie’s Scottish leader Johann Lamont gave clearance for her welfare spokeswoman to make the claims.
Despite repeated phone calls and e-mails to Ms Baillie, Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran and Deputy Leader, Anas Sarwar – a wall of silence remains.
Scottish Labour launched their own campaign against the Bedroom Tax earlier this month – promising to ban evictions for people who ran up rent arrears due to housing benefit cuts resulting from the Bedroom Tax and demanding £50m from the Scottish government.
Linda Fabiani who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee said Ms Baillie’s comments have only added to the confusion surrounding Labour and the controversial Tory tax.
The SNP MSP said: “Labour is mired in confusion when it comes to the bedroom tax – it’s like the dance of the seven veils. There appears to be different policies and views from Labour spokespeople in different parts of the UK. Miliband needs to get a grip on this.
“We don’t know if this is this wishful thinking from Jackie Baillie or not. It’s hard to campaign against a policy if you don’t actually know what your stance is to that policy.
“In complete contrast, the SNP’s position has been unequivocal – the bedroom tax would be scrapped in an independent Scotland if we were elected to office.
“Scotland deserves better than this from Labour. Most people agree that we can take better decisions about welfare in Scotland for ourselves. Only a Yes vote in next year’s referendum will give the Scottish Parliament the powers to scrap the Bedroom Tax and build a fairer welfare system.”
Further claims and confusion over the Bedroom Tax have included those from Deputy Scottish Leader Anas Sarwar, who recently said: “If we were in government tomorrow, we would abolish the Bedroom Tax.” This was said during a live TV debate session with Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and aired on Scotland Tonight.
On the same evening, in a Newsnight Scotland interview Labour’s Scottish Leader Johann Lamont was pressed several times to ‘be clear’ that Labour would abolish the Bedroom Tax in 2015, but refused to do so.
The UK Labour spokesperson added: “Labour has consistently said that the bedroom tax is as cruel as it is incompetent, and there is a real danger it is so badly thought through it could actually end up costing more than it saves. David Cameron should drop this policy and he should drop it now.”
However earlier this year Labour MP and Shadow Cabinet member Helen Goodman insisted the Labour party would keep the Bedroom Tax but only for people who refused to be rehoused.
[Newsnet Scotland relies heavily on the generosity of its readers in order to exist. We are grateful for each and every donation and would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have placed their trust in us. We would encourage those who can to please donate in order to ensure we continue to provide an alternative news service that is now enjoyed by over 100,000 people each and every month.]