A diatribe against welfare provision from Johann Lamont, leader of Scottish Labour, has been supported by prominent Labour figures at the party’s conference this week.
Lamont gave a speech last week where she attacked the free prescriptions brought in by the Scottish National Party (SNP). “Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world,” she claimed.
Margaret Curran, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, stepped in to defend Lamont’s comments after they caused uproar. Curran says the speech was about “facing up to the truth”.
Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, also backed Lamont at yesterday’s conference. “How pleased we have all been to see the smile wiped off the smug, arrogant Alex Salmond’s face,” she said, referring to the SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister.
Lamont attacked not just free prescriptions but the entire idea of universal benefits—including popular policies such as free personal care for the elderly and free university tuition.
These moves follow Scottish Labour’s defeat in last year’s Holyrood election. Labour pitched right during the election, talking up issues such as knife crime and defending the British state. Now it looks set to move even further to the right.
These moves will anger many working class Scots. Dave Moxham, deputy secretary of the Scottish TUC, said unions had not been consulted before Scottish Labour’s attack on universal benefits.