Scottish Independence: Labour unveils Red Paper

Johann Lamount greets Ed Miliband as he takes the stage at Scottish Labour's conference yesterday. Picture: Getty
Johann Lamount greets Ed Miliband as he takes the stage at Scottish Labour's conference yesterday. Picture: Getty
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JOHANN Lamont will accuse the SNP government of pursuing an “Osborne-max” agenda with its economic plans for independence as she attempts to seize the mantle of the Left ahead of the referendum.

The Scottish Labour leader will use a speech at her party conference today to attack the SNP’s backing for tax cuts for business and what she claims is a delay in the introduction of a “living wage”, as she compares the policies of the Nationalists to those of Tory Chancellor George Osborne.

The claim came as Scottish Labour unveiled a radical alternative to independence in its Red Paper, setting out the party’s plans to pursue the redistribution of wealth and the expansion of free childcare, and the tackling of poverty in the event of a No vote.

UK Labour leader Ed Miliband claimed yesterday that the SNP had “no plan for social justice” as he delivered a speech to his ­Scottish party’s conference in Perth.

Scottish Labour moved to reclaim the left-wing agenda from the SNP with the publication of the Red Paper– Together We Can, which will be widely seen as an alternative to the nationalists’ white paper on independence, Scotland’s Future.

In 2012, Ms Lamont was accused by Nationalists of using “Conservative rhetoric” when she launched a review of free universal services. This weekend marks a concerted effort by Labour to dispel that impression.

The party aims to send a summary of the Red Paper document to all 2.47 million households in Scotland before the independence referendum.

Key planks of the document including a pledge to halve child poverty by 2021, 25 hours of free childcare for every three and four-year-old and 15 hours a week for half of all two-year-olds, with an aim to lift 100,000 children in Scotland out of ­poverty by 2021.

The Red Paper – which takes its name from the Red Paper on Scotland, a book written by Labour movement figures such as Gordon Brown and Robin Cook in the 1970s – also backs a 10p starting rate of tax as well as a 50p rate for those earning £150,000 a year.

The Red Paper will be seen as the party hardening its stance on devolution in the run-up to 18 September as it attempts to appeal to Labour voters who may be tempted by independence and the SNP’s claim that a No vote would permanently end Tory rule.

Nationalist leaders have attempted to portray the SNP as a left-of-centre party, and have pursued polices such as free NHS prescriptions since first coming to power in 2007.

However, Ms Lamont will claim that the Nationalists have presided over growing inequality during the SNP’s seven years in power at Holyrood.

The Glasgow Pollok MSP draws a direct comparison between the SNP and the Tory government at Westminster on critical issues such as tax as she suggests the Nationalists would pursue similar policies in an independent Scotland to those of Mr Osborne, who cut the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p.

She said: “Seven years ofnationalism – and not one policy which redistributes wealth from rich to poor. In fact the opposite.

“Those in the richest houses saving the most. Those with the most getting more. Those with the least getting less.

“That isn’t just a betrayal of social justice – it is a betrayal of everything we believe Scotland stands for.

“We have a Nationalist ­government which refuses to reverse Tory (tax) cuts for millionaires. Forget talk of indy-lite – this Nationalist government is Osborne-max.”

However, a spokesman for SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond last night claimed Ms Lamont was backing the same cuts agenda as the Tories at Westminster by carrying out a review of free universal services such as university tuition.

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “The reality is, Johann ­Lamont is working hand in glove with the Tories against Scotland taking all decisions on the economy and welfare for itself – which is why so many people, including increasing numbers of Labour voters, back a Yes vote in September.”

However, Mr Miliband claimed that the SNP had refused to match his party’s promise to restore the 50p tax rate for top earners in a separate Scotland, in case it placed the country at a “tax disadvantage”.

Mr Miliband said that stance would mean “in an independent Scotland the top rate of tax would be set not in Scotland but in London, by a government in London with no Scottish representation”.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar said the Red Paperwas a document of “ambitions” and “aspiration” for Labour in power at Holyrood and Westminster.

Key pledges include:

• A 10p starting rate of tax and a 50p rate for those earning £150,000 or more.

• No privatisation of the health service in Scotland.

• 25 hours a week of free childcare, and to lift 100,000 children out of poverty.

• Repeal laws aimed at curbing sectarianism in football in Scotland.

• Extend the living wage.

• Energy price freezes for 20 months and to break the monopoly of the “Big 6”.

• Halve waiting times for cancer patients with test results in two weeks or less.

• Abolish the bedroom tax.

• Equal representation of women on public bodies.