Scottish independence: SNP social justice scorned

Douglas Alexander accused the SNP of having only a 'rhetorical commitment to social justice'. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Douglas Alexander accused the SNP of having only a 'rhetorical commitment to social justice'. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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THE SNP’s “rhetorical commitment to social justice” is no more than a means to an end to win a Yes vote in the independence referendum, Labour MP Douglas Alexander has claimed.

Mr Alexander used a speech at Glasgow University to attack the party over its assertions on the issue, the day after four out of six SNP MPs were not present to back a Bill aimed at legislating for sweeping new exemptions to the so-called “bedroom tax”.

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But the SNP hit back at Mr Alexander, accusing him of hypocrisy and suggesting that the Bill would not affect the outcome decisively.

Referring to the vote at Westminster on Friday, Mr Alexander said: “They (the SNP) have proved that they care more about ending Britain than ending poverty.

“The nationalists didn’t just let down Scotland. They let down the disabled, the vulnerable and the poor across Britain.

“The nationalists have shown their creed is synthetic concern and their only priority is separation.

“They see poverty and injustice as a circumstance to be exploited not a condition to be ended.”

The Shadow Foreign Secretary, who has emerged as a key figure in the Better Together campaign to save the union, added that the SNP’s “rhetorical commitment to social justice is no more than a means to a separatist end”.

Turning to the final days of the campaign before the crucial ballot on September 18, Mr Alexander said: “One of our challenges in the dozen days ahead is to find new ways of setting out clearly to people just how the process for further devolution following a No vote would work, how civic society will be engaged, and on what sort of a timetable the new powers will be delivered, whichever of the main parties wins the General Election.”

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have each put forward separate proposals for more powers for Scotland in the event of a No vote, but they stopped short of coming to an all-party consensus.

“The time is now to make clear the choice, as Scots, we will make in just a dozen days: between greater devolution and irreversible separation,” Mr Alexander added.

He called for unionist party leaders to work together, adding: “In their day John Smith and Donald Dewar worked across party boundaries and with civic Scotland to make devolution the settled will of Scotland.

“To the leadership of all the parties offering a stronger Scottish Parliament within the UK I say this: let us now give our fellow Scots the clarity they need to make the choice most of us want.

“That more powerful Scottish Parliament is what most Scots want and it can be delivered without losing the strength and stability of the United Kingdom, and - very importantly from a Labour perspective - without weakening the social solidarity which is part of the glue that holds our nation together and ensures standards of welfare and social justice across the whole of the United Kingdom.”

SNP Work and Pensions spokeswoman Dr Eilidh Whiteford said: “Douglas Alexander’s hypocrisy is absolutely breathtaking - he is working hand in glove in the No campaign with the same Tory government who imposed the bedroom tax in the first place.

“And a number of Scottish MPs failed to turn up to vote in 2013 when the bedroom tax could have been scrapped completely.”

The MP added: “The SNP in Government has already done far more with our limited powers to divert spending in Scotland to fully mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax on all of those affected, going well beyond anything this bill proposes, and with independence we will scrap the bedroom tax completely.

“Labour seem more interested in playing political games than in taking real action to support vulnerable people. Only last month Labour failed to vote against Tory welfare cuts, including cuts to disability living allowance that will see over 100,000 people in Scotland lose funding they rely on.

“While we were pleased to take part in yesterday’s debate and help deliver a defeat to the UK Government, the vote will not end the bedroom tax. The only way we can guarantee an end to the bedroom tax in Scotland is to vote Yes and get rid of Westminster Tory governments forever.”

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