Attack on Sturgeon just doesn’t add up
BEFORE Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont escalates her proposed class war (“Row over £200,00 Sturgeon income”, 28 September) she should spare a moment to think about the other side of the coin vis-a-vis the Sturgeon/Murrell family and others in the same position.
With the sort of income quoted, they will pay between £50,000 and £70,000 in income tax, depending on their circumstances. In addition there is VAT, fuel tax, Community Charge, etc. All-together the family will be paying almost 50 per cent of their income to be redistributed by the UK government.
Free prescriptions seem trivial in this context. And don’t forget it will be Ms Lamont and her colleagues to blame if this revenue fails to accrue to the Scottish Government following the referendum in 2014.
MORE home truths from Johann Lamont, who makes an excellent and telling point when she asks Nicola Sturgeon about free prescriptions etc, when Ms Sturgeon who, along with her husband, another employee of the SNP, has combined household income in excess of £200,000 per annum and theoretically would be entitled to receive this benefit.
One must ask whether politicians (of all hues) have no sense of shame when pensioners, whose interests, among others, they are supposed to represent, have to literally struggle by on less than £9,000 a year for a couple on the basic rate.
It makes it truly bizarre and hypocritical that the wealthy, and that includes MSPs, should be entitled to these universal benefits, such as free prescriptions, free bus passes etc just the same as the genuinely needy and deserving.
This is apparently what Ms Sturgeon, the SNP and its supporters are saying though, and this while Alex Salmond is enjoying a taxpayer funded break in the USA at the Ryder Cup to promote his separatist agenda.
To make many of these benefits subject to some sort of means test is not only sensible it is vital if any sense of fairness and proportion is to be maintained in our society. This unaffordable free benefits culture can only ever exist in the continuing vote-grabbing pipe dream of the SNP, and those who think likewise are similarly deluded: if independence ever arrived they would be in for a very short, sharp, shock.
ONE of the more facile aspects of the current debate about universal benefits (Letters, 28 September) has been the obsession with Sir Alan Sugar’s bus pass (which as far as I know he hasn’t even applied for).
It has been compounded north of the Border by an unwarranted attack from Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont on Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, her household income, and entitlement to free prescriptions (your report, 28 September).
A badly thought-out contribution to managing the Scottish budget by Ms Lamont has been made worse by a tirade of personal abuse.
Her attitude is wrong on a number of counts. Firstly, the National Health Service is meant to be equally open to all.
That applies to a professional couple with, for example, a dangerously sick child, and to all those on middle and low incomes and even those with hardly any. Free prescriptions help embody that principle. In any case their cost, in terms of the overall health budget in Scotland, is small.
Nearly 50 per cent of us who visit a doctor come out with a prescription. Of those, nearly 80 per cent were entitled to them anyway because of age, being in receipt of benefits, or other special circumstances.
The Scottish Labour leader ought to have known that this issue is the one least worth picking a fight over. It does not need a commission headed up by Professor Arthur Midwinter to tell us how to reduce the costs of free-at-the-point-of-use services.
The current government at Holyrood has a clear mandate to continue with them, but if it has to review them there are simple points to be made.
Means testing is not appropriate in relation to free prescriptions and eye tests. It is not practical at all for concessionary travel or the winter fuel allowance, where raising the qualifying age to 65 might have some impact. “Free personal care” by its very nature requires a detailed assessment of an individual’s circumstances, and a means test might be appropriate there.
Labour could say now which of these policies it is in favour of. Instead, it seems to want to distance itself from core and potential support by unnecessary delay and personal attacks.
It is time for Johann Lamont to change both her tune and tone.
Johann Lamont’s proposals to move Labour in Scotland on to a conservative agenda by opposing universal benefits was certainly the biggest political story in Scotland this week.
As most voters form their political views from television coverage, can anyone explain why BBC Scotland failed to show any of the feisty exchanges at First Minister’s Question Time on its news bulletins?
Who exactly was BBC Scotland trying to protect and why?
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