SNP accuses Labour of '˜playing politics'

Labour's claim that a Scottish Government blunder means 7,800 pensioners in Argyll & Bute will miss out on early winter fuel payments has been rubbished by the SNP.

Rhoda Grant MSP

Both Scottish Labour and the SNP made manifesto commitments to offer early winter fuel payments to those who live off-grid. This would allow pensioners to stock-up on supplies and take advantage of low prices before winter.

The SNP hit back at Labour’s attempt to “play politics with this important issue”, pointing out that Holyrood doesn’t yet have the power from Westminster over winter fuel payments.

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In response to a parliamentary question, it emerged SNP ministers have yet to have any discussions about introducing early payments – meaning pensioners will again miss out on earlier payments this year.

Scottish Labour’s Rhoda Grant MSP, member for the Highlands and Islands, said: “These are deeply worrying reports.

“SNP MSPs were elected on a manifesto commitment to deliver early winter fuel payments – and they should explain why it is now not being delivered.

“The SNP has already failed to deliver early payments for this winter – one of the worst on record – and now it seems it will not be delivered in time for next winter either.

“The SNP’s timidity and lack of action is failing pensioners in Argyll and Bute. It’s time for the SNP to spell out when these early payments will actually be delivered.”

SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russel hit back, he said: “It’s deeply regrettable that Labour have tried to play politics with this important issue.

“The SNP has committed to delivering early winter fuel payments to those off grid by the end of this parliament, and that is what we’ll do.

“The fact of the matter is that we don’t yet have powers over winter fuel payments - and anybody who knows the first thing about politics should know that.

“When we do get powers over winter fuel payments we are committed to protecting them from means testing and extend those benefits to families with disabled children.

“While Labour carp from the sidelines and make false claims in order to try and worry pensioners, the SNP is getting on with the job of delivering for families through decisive action, including building a new social security system based on the principles of dignity and respect.”

Labour insist this issue can be acted upon if the SNP “stop dragging their heels” on the transfer of powers.