Scottish Labour noncommittal over bedroom tax

Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont  and deputy leader Anas Sarwar. Picture: PA
Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont and deputy leader Anas Sarwar. Picture: PA
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LABOUR has stopped short of a commitment to abolishing the bedroom tax if it wins power in the next election in 2015, prompting claims that

the party is “mired in confusion” over the controversial policy.

Scottish deputy leader Anas Sarwar told a live televised debate last night on STV that it would scrap the under-occupancy charge for social housing tenants with a spare room if it was “in power tomorrow.”

But a party spokesman today said its policy for the 2015 manifesto was not yet finalised with key conditions like the prevailing economic climate subject to change.

“It’s the decision of what you would do now and what you would two years down the line,” he said.

Labour leader Johann Lamont declined to say if the party would ditch the bedroom tax in 2015 when pressed earlier this week.

A member’s Bill has been lodged at Holyrood by Labour’s Jackie Baillie which would remove the threat of eviction from all social tenants over bedroom tax arrears and she hit out at the SNP Government for failing to support it.

But all SNP councils have pledged not to press ahead with evictions over the bedroom tax and the party says it would be abolished in the first year after independence.

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, who sits on Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee, said: “Labour are mired in confusion and their leaders at both Holyrood and

Westminster all seem to have their own idea of what Labour’s policy actually is. Labour’s multiple stances on the Bedroom Tax are an utter shambles, and it is high time they levelled with the people affected by this iniquitous Westminster Tory policy.

“On Thursday night we had Labour’s Scottish Leader and Deputy Leader appearing simultaneously on different TV channels – one says they’ll scrap it, the other doesn’t seem to know.

“So, if Ed Miliband is actually leading Labour he needs to give an immediate, unequivocal commitment – would Labour scrap the Bedroom Tax

if they were to be elected in 2015? Yes or no?”

But Ms Baillie today accused Ms Sturgeon of putting “politics above protecting our most vulnerable” over its failure to support her Bill.

“The SNP seems to be merely in power to campaign, rather than to govern,” Ms Baillie said.

“Nicola Sturgeon chose to use the Bedroom Tax for her referendum campaign, rather than bring about the change she could. Scots will not forget that, nor forgive that choice.

“This bill could make the difference that tens of thousands of Scots are desperately waiting to see happen. Nicola Sturgeon last night denied them the protection they deserve. The SNP has again shown itself to be nothing more than a referendum campaign group and not a

government for all of Scotland.”