JOHANN Lamont yesterday accused the SNP of running the most “dishonest, deceptive and disgraceful” campaign ever seen in its bid to persuade voters to back independence.
At the Scottish Labour conference in Perth, the leader used her keynote speech to mount a series of attacks on Nationalist ministers and said the SNP would “go down as conducting the worst campaign of mis-selling in history”.
With just six months to September’s independence referendum, Lamont said the Nationalists were trying to “drag people to a place of no return outside the UK”.
She blasted her rivals’ tactics, saying: “The Nationalists are running the most dishonest, deceptive and disgraceful political campaign this country has ever seen.
“Their strategy is not to convince the people of Scotland – it is to drag them over the line to a place of no return outside the United Kingdom. Decent Nationalists must be hanging their heads in shame at the campaign being run.”
The SNP has set out “transformational” plans to provide families with 1,140 hours a year of free childcare in an independent Scotland. But Lamont said: “What would be really transformational would be if this government ever told the truth.”
She called SNP ministers the most “detached” and “dishonest” since devolution and singled out Finance Secretary John Swinney, who she claimed sought to exploit poverty-stricken Scots affected by the UK government’s controversial Bedroom Tax to promote the Yes campaign.
In contrast, she portrayed Scottish Labour as an “honest and truthful” party devoted to restoring faith in politics after seven years of SNP rule. As part of new powers Labour has pledged to devolve, she said the party would increase tax for those earning £150,000 or more to 50p in the pound.
This would be part of “new Scottish progressive rates of income tax,” she said, which would “mean the Scottish Parliament will be able to make our tax system truly progressive”.
She also pledged the cash raised would go to public services. “The Nationalists refuse to reverse George Osborne’s tax cuts for millionaires, but we will,” she declared. “That is powers for a purpose.”
Her speech came days after Labour’s devolution commission set out plans for transfer of further powers in the event of a No vote in September.
As well as greater powers over income tax, Holyrood would get control over housing benefit, and attendance allowance. A new Scottish Health and Safety Executive would be set up, and responsibility for employment tribunals would be devolved. Labour would also act to ensure the Scottish Parliament is “permanently entrenched and indissoluble”.
“What we propose is a new powerhouse Scottish Parliament,” she said. She insisted the Union was one “of equals and partnership” and “not a contractual union or marriage of convenience”. She said: “To lead in the 21st century, to preserve our values and advance the people’s interests, Scotland needs the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom needs Scotland.”
But while the SNP wants Scotland to leave the UK, the Labour leader said: “I am more ambitious than that, I want Scotland to have the self-confidence to lead the UK.” Lamont held out a “vision of a new Scotland – a nation renewed, prosperous, thriving and together”.
Last night SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said Lamont’s speech was a “desperate” attempt to deflect criticism from a review of free universal services by the Labour leadership.
She said: “This was a desperate speech filled with over-the-top attacks to attempt to distract attention from the absolute mess of Labour’s devolution commission.”
A spokesman for Alex Salmond added: “Labour and Lamont are still in denial about being out of office.”