No such thing as a free social service

AT LAST Johann Lamont has attempted to make the SNP accountable for its near suicidal populist policies of free everything. Until now the SNP has unashamedly tried to buy votes by introducing policies that, if left unfettered, could and would rapidly bankrupt Scotland should it ever become truly independent (your reports, 26 & 27 September).

One of the more glaring examples is threatening to punish councils should they try to raise their charges to cover continually rising costs. This is leading to redundancies and job cutting plus a lack finances to provide adequate care for those in the community who most need it. All in the short term pursuit of attracting votes for the pipe dream of a utopian Scotland.

Should independence ever arrive, then those who are hell-bent of making it happen are going to be faced with hundreds of thousands of disgruntled voters when their much vaunted left-wing policies collapse around their ears and there would be no way back.

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Brian Allan

Keith Street

Kincardine-on-Forth

Alloa, Clackmannanshire

THE world’s worst economic crisis for 80 years rumbles on. Empires crumble, currencies collapse, there is a run on the banks. In the face of these world changing events what do we get from Scottish ­Labour leader Johann Lamont? Do we see any signs that she and her party have grasped how serious the situation is? Indeed not. Instead we are told cuts and tax rises are the answer. And higher taxes for what?

To fund Labour councils like Glasgow and Aberdeen, the first mired in debt as a result of Labour’s own PFI schemes, the second – despite protestations of funding shortfalls – determined to refuse an injection of private cash from local business. Lamont prescribes a direct transfer of resources from the hard-pressed productive sector to her spendthrift chums in local authorities.

In a lengthy speech she explains why we must go down the UK coalition road of freezing less well off students out of higher education and means testing benefit recipients. But we hear nothing of significance about the economy, about how to create wealth, re-position, encourage entrepreneurship or build a better infrastructure.

She doesn’t look forward, takes no account of macro-economic conditions, fails to consider how we might use any of our vast natural resources to stimulate growth or create jobs and says not a word about small business. What tax hikes does she have in mind for employers; the tradesmen, retailers and service providers who are at the heart of our economy?

The function of her announcement is to describe how to manage “poverty”, not change anything. Her proposals represent the mindset of mid-level local authority managerialism where vision and aspiration are absent.

I dread the impact Lamont would have on small businesses like mine. Surely there can be no possibility she will ever find her way into the corridors of power?

Michael Hance

Braehead

Bo’ness, West Lothian

I FOUND myself laughing at the message underlying ­Johann Lamont’s comments on the free public service culture in Scotland.

What I took this to mean is that anyone who could afford to pay will pay for services in the future. I agree that by offering services for “free”, funds are having to be diverted from other areas. However, yet again the hard working and ambitious ­section of society is being expected to ease the strain.

What kind of message is this sending to youngsters of today? They have currently two life choices:

They can work hard in school, go to university or learn a skill/trade (for which they will have to pay). They will then have to rent a property while they save a deposit of 10-15 per cent for a mortgage. They will pay tax, contribute to a pension, pay for dental treatment, prescriptions, council tax, transport and anything else that takes their fancy. They will have to delay having children as they will be unable to afford a drop in household income and childcare. They will work till they are 60-65 years old and latterly pay an obscene amount for sub-standard private nursing home care before passing away and having any remaining wealth heavily taxed by the government.

Or they can drop out of school and get free money from the government every week and a council property. They will be able to afford children and will find the government will give further money to provide for them too. They will receive free dental treatment, a discount on council tax and free prescriptions. After being retired for all of their life, in their later years they will receive a state pension and free care until they die.

I think Lamont has got it all wrong… you see from the above two examples for the average working person, Scotland is anything but free. If we are to address the huge sums of public spending that is allocated on sustaining the population, the “benefit state” that has been created needs to be examined closely.

Fraser E Mitchell

Pitt Street

Edinburgh

YOU quote Johann Lamont (26 September) as countering SNP arguments by saying that Scandinavian countries have high levels of taxation.

They do, but they also enjoy higher incomes, higher benefits and a higher standard of living than we do as part of the UK. Pre-school childcare in Denmark, for example, is almost universal and affordable to all.

The Scottish Government has made admirable efforts to extend childcare in Scotland but under the present “devolution settlement” we are a long way from being able to achieve what Scandinavia does in this respect.

David Stevenson

Blacket Place

Edinburgh

JOHANN Lamont’s plans for Labour to adopt Tory-style expensive and bureaucratic “means testing” is merely following Ed Miliband’s London agenda and actually makes the case for independence.

These are political choices and unlike under devolution, with independence all future Scottish governments will be fully accountable and, if required, can introduce suitable taxes to pay for them.

As Scotland receives 9.3 per cent of UK spending but contributes 9.6 per cent of all UK tax revenues, it is nonsense to suggest we cannot afford free services and benefits.

Universal benefits are the hallmark of a modern social democracy but Labour in England has given up on student fees and the NHS. So if millionaire authors or anyone else believes in social democracy they should be campaigning for independence as this is our only defence against “broken Britain” and creeping globalisation.

Mary Thomas

Watson Crescent

Edinburgh