Labour swipe at ‘fantasist’ Alex Salmond on free services

The SNP have accused Johann Lamont of using 'the language of the Tory party from 20 years ago'
The SNP have accused Johann Lamont of using 'the language of the Tory party from 20 years ago'
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ALEX Salmond has been accused by Labour of not “living in the real world” by defending Scotland’s system of universal benefits.

His defence of universal services such as free bus passes and free university tuition was attacked by Labour leader Johann Lamont, pictured, at First Minister’s Questions yesterday.

She has called for a debate on the affordability of providing benefits for all, an approach that has been attacked by the SNP.

In the Holyrood chamber, Labour was accused of using the language of the Tory party from “20 years ago” by Mr Salmond.

Ms Lamont told MSPs she understood why the First Minister thought “everything is free”. She said: “He’s on £130,000 a year, he spends almost two grand a week on hospitality, then gets the taxpayer to spend £1,300 a year for a TV package to watch the films and sport events – which he then gets them to pay for him to attend.

“The First Minister does not live in the real world. He lives in a world where it’s fine to spend £400,000 to rent out a gentlemen’s club in Pall Mall, but doesn’t worry about the care worker who’s had their wages cut by £4,000 a year. He’s not an economist, he’s a fantasist.”

The Labour leader has set up a review into Scotland’s benefits system, including free prescriptions, free personal care and the council tax freeze. It will be led by public finance expert Professor Arthur Midwinter.

But it has already been dubbed the “cuts commission” by the SNP and Mr Salmond said it was coming at a time when the Scottish Budget faced huge pressure from Westminster cuts.

“The solution to that fact cannot be abandoning concessionary fares, or free prescriptions or free personal care or re-introducing tuition fees or abandoning the council tax freeze,” Mr Salmond said.