CONTROVERSIAL proposals to end universal free services in Scotland such as free prescriptions would harm the poor, a leading left wing think-tank has warned in a report published today.
• Leading think-tank argues that ending universal services such as free prescriptions would adversely affect the poor
• The end of universal services would “create stigma and reduce take-up rates”, the Jimmy Reid Foundation say
The Jimmy Reid Foundation said that the “group that will suffer by far most if we roll back universalism is the poor” in its report The Case for Universalism.
Ending free universal services and benefits would “create stigma and reduce take-up rates” and lead to a sharp rise in administrative costs, the think-tank said.
The stark warning will be seen as a direct challenge to Scottish Labour that has launched a party commission to look at whether to end support for policies such as free prescriptions, free university tuition and the council tax freeze.
Convener of the Jimmy Reid foundation Bob Thomson, a former chair of Scottish Labour called on the party to closely examine the report as it reviews free services through the commission that is being advised by leading academic Prof Arthur Midwinter.
He said: “This is a detailed and serious look at the claims that have been made which suggest we need to move away from the principle of universalism. The conclusions show clearly that by a long way it is the poor that suffer most when we start targeting social services and benefits.
“We hope the Scottish Labour review being undertaken by Arthur Midwinter will look closely at this report and that the report will change minds. It is one thing to ask questions about how many universal social services we can afford because of the financial crash but it is quite another to attack the very principle of universalism. It is by far the most effective and just system of organising society we have achieved and must be defended, not attacked.”