Carmichael: Nicola Sturgeon must tackle inequality

Alistair Carmichael will throw down the gauntlet when he addresses the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference. Picture: Jane Barlow
Alistair Carmichael will throw down the gauntlet when he addresses the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference. Picture: Jane Barlow
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FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon will be challenged to stop the “excuses and the blame game” and take action to tackle inequality.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael will throw down the gauntlet when he addresses the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference in Dunfermline.

There he will claim that despite seven-and-a-half years in government with the SNP, Ms Sturgeon has failed to address the problem.

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While Ms Sturgeon has often raised the issue of inequality, the UK Government minister will claim she needs to “move on from words and on to governing”.

Mr Carmichael will say that the new SNP leader’s “commitment to people in Scotland will be measured by her willingness to act” on issues such as inequality, health, justice and transport, and not on “manoeuvring for a second referendum that implies people were too stupid to get the answer right first time”.

The Scottish Secretary is expected to tell the conference: “In the two years leading up to the referendum, our new First Minister spoke often and at length about inequality in Scotland.

“But after seven-and-a-half years in office, the Government in which she served has failed to deal with that issue.

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“On childcare, on housing, on health, the Scottish Government has levers it could’ve pulled. But they chose not to.”

He will add: “Now that Nicola is in charge, the excuses and the blame game really must stop.

“As First Minister, the priorities are hers to set and the levers are hers to pull.

“If she wants to address inequality, the time is now and the clock is ticking.”

But he will also say action is not just needed to tackle inequality, adding: “Our roads need investment. Our justice system needs reform. Our health service - and our mental health services in particular - need support.

“Nicola Sturgeon can break with the past and address these things now.”

He will also point out that “the range of policy choices at the Scottish Government’s disposal is set to widen” with borrowing powers and some income tax powers being introduced in 2015 and 2016 as a result of the Scotland Act 2012.

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Meanwhile the Smith Commission, which was set up by the UK Government to consider further devolution in the aftermath of the independence referendum, is due to report next week, with Mr Carmichael saying that could see “a further move towards our vision of home rule for Scotland within our shared United Kingdom”.

He will add: “More powers are coming. On tax, on welfare, on whichever new powers are devolved, the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government, will have increased ability to act, enhanced accountability to the Scottish people, and the chance to change Scotland for good.”

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