Missed opportunity to present positive case

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Johann Lamont’s speech at Labour’s Perth conference (your report, 22 March) – not coming from a stupid person – has to be a calculated insult to all Scots. Her mentions of Alex Salmond, childcare and “not giving any theories why the First Minister has problems with women” stink of some dark ambiguity. If she is saying something, let her say it openly. 

She even has the neck to mention that Labourites have been home rulers for 100 years. In fact, she mentions a lot of things Labour is going to do, most of which could have been done years ago. No speeding tickets there, then.

She talked about social justice coming from Labour and says that her daughter’s future is assured because Labour delivered equal rights for women. She also praised her husband, Archie, who is deputy leader of Glasgow’s Labour controlled council. She forgot to mention that the previous day 2,500 women had won a court case to join another 3,000 women in taking forward a case against her husband’s Glasgow Council for not being paid equal wages. These 5,500 women claim that they were “fiddled” out of wages equal to men in similar jobs. That’s Labour’s social justice.

Ms Lamont can look back with pride on the Labour government of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. The increasing food banks may be the Tories’ success, but they are also Labour’s legacy.

Thomas R Burgess

St Catherine’s Square

Perth

My POLITICAL awakening consisted of traipsing around Midlothian in the 1980s, handing out leaflets for the Labour Party. It therefore gives me only sadness to witness what has become of that once-great party, particularly in Scotland. Last week Johann Lamont unveiled Labour’s plans for greater devolution. Tinkering at the edges would be a charitable description. Poverty of ambition might be more accurate. Is it not a remarkable point in Scottish politics when the Tories appear likely to propose more radical plans for Scottish home rule than Labour?

Meanwhile, Ms Lamont used her conference speech to label the SNP’s independence campaign “dishonest”. There may be some over-egging of the positives from Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon et al, but Labour itself is being far from open with the Scottish people. In her conference speech, for example, Ms Lamont said the UK is a “Union of equals and partnership”. How can this be reconciled with her own party’s decision to align with the Tories to block an independent Scotland’s use of sterling? If we are equal partners, sterling is as much ours as anyone else’s.

Furthermore, in an interview last week Ms Lamont said that the UK is about “redistributing out of better-off parts of the United Kingdom into poorer bits”. This is a noble enough aim, but one with significant consequences for Scotland.

As Labour’s own devolution document identifies, Scotland is the third richest part of the UK. According to Ms Lamont’s own logic, therefore, Scotland’s role in the UK is to provide wealth to be transferred to poorer parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A move to a needs-based distribution of expenditure across the UK as a whole would require cuts of around £4 billion per year to Scotland’s current budget in the event of a No vote. Yet where is Labour’s honest assessment of the impact on public spending in Scotland?

Since losing its grip on Holyrood in 2007, Labour has increasingly chosen to define itself as against independence and against the SNP rather than being for anything. I would welcome Labour’s re-emergence as the party of social justice that I supported in my youth. It might take independence to allow that to happen. 

C Hegarty

Glenorchy Road North Berwick

My childhood was spent in a professional-class family in Ayr in the years immediately after the Second World War. The Conservative Party was then a strong political force in Scotland, with a wholly respectable, indeed creditable, record in government and my home town was a solid Tory stronghold.

Andrew Gray (Letters, 22 March) should not be surprised that I feel some regret at the ruining of a once-great party’s reputation by the actions of one of the most destructive political leaders in recent history – and at the short-sightedness of our contemporary politicians who are unable to see beyond the Thatcher era, to the time when the Conservatives had a high standing in Scotland.

But the Tory party – and equally the Labour Party – of today are mere shadows of what they were in the mid-20th century: principles, vision and leaders worthy of respect have gone like the snows of yesteryear, leaving nothing but blinkered and hidebound commitment to the obsolete two-party tradition.

One reason, though not the only one, why I support independence is precisely that it will give Scottish political thinkers of all shades the opportunity to start afresh and develop a lively, dynamic and forward-looking political culture; for I certainly see no chance of that happening under the Westminster system.

I’m glad to hear that Mr Gray thinks there is hope for me yet; but hope that I will become a Unionist? Sorry, sir: no.

Derrick McClure

Rosehill Terrace

Aberdeen

The Scottish Labour Party, just like the Scottish Tory party at its spring conference, came together in featuring Scotland’s First Minister and the SNP much on their agendas. But I was very disappointed in Johann Lamont’s address as I learned that the lady was not for turning; no U-turn on her famous “something for nothing society”.

Yet Ms Lamont had the audacity to accuse the Scottish Government of being Osbourne Max – the Scottish Government which has done much to promote a fairer society and attack poverty through the introduction of the living wage, the council tax freeze, continued free personal care for our elderly, increased free nursery provision and the introduction of free prescriptions, not to mention no tuition fees for our students and millions being poured into our welfare budget to mitigate Westminster welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax.

Ms Lamont, you missed another opportunity to stop the negative campaign and put your positive case for Scotland’s future. With the intervention of a former Labour first minister, in Henry McLeish, can we assume from his criticism of the Labour Party in Scotland that Scottish Labour is more united with the Conservatives in the Better Together campaign than they are as a party in Scotland?

Catriona C Clark

Hawthorn Drive

Banknock, Falkirk

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