‘There is a more effective solution’

all MSPs who have been big on talk about the need for a so-called living wage, the First Minister among them, should be embarrassed today.

Up to 100 of the staff they walk past each day in the Scottish Parliament still earn less than the official “living wage” of £7.20 an hour, despite all their fine campaigning words.

Mr Salmond, of course, would be the first to point out that the real power to tackle low wages rests at Westminster, where the national minimum wage is set. That is part of a much-wider debate on devolved powers and independence.

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Right now, the more germane question is what is an acceptable level for the most basic pay in modern society.

Establishing a legally-binding minimum wage was arguably New Labour’s greatest achievement, but 12 years on the debate still rages about what level it should be.

The £6.08 an hour which the national minimum wage for an adult rises to next month? The £7.20 rate trumpeted by the living wage campaign? Or perhaps the £8 an hour for which union leaders are campaigning?

It is a thorny issue and one to tax the finest economic brains. Besides the arguments about higher wages discouraging job creation, a significant hike in pay for the worst off public sector workers would cost many millions of pounds, which right now would inevitably mean more cuts to local services.

But isn’t there a simpler and more effective solution to tackling relative poverty?

It is ridiculous that all of the wage rates listed above would leave a full-time employee paying income tax on every penny they earn above £7475.

The priority should be getting more of the lowest-paid out of the tax bracket. Yes, even the Lib Dems, who have made that a priority, aren’t wrong all of the time.

Tram inquiry call

jenny Dawe’s latest intervention into the trams debate will take many by surprise.

In a letter to Alex Salmond, the city council leader makes it clear that not only are she and her Lib Dems ready to take part in a public inquiry into the shambolic project, they are ready to do so right now.

This will confound those who assumed politicians of all colours would rather avoid a full probe until after May’s local elections.

Perhaps Mrs Dawe feels she and her team have least to hide – or nothing to lose. But, whatever the reason, we welcome her to the cause. We need a public inquiry and we need one now.