The SNP has condemned Westminster’s “year of shame” on the bedroom tax, and once again pledged that the hated tax would be scrapped in an independent Scotland.
Over 82,000 households are estimated in Scotland to be affected by the tax, including 63,500 households with a disabled adult, and 15,000 households with children.
The Scottish Affairs Committee has belatedly begun to wake up to the damage the Bedroom Tax is having on vulnerable PEOPLE in Scotland, with its report published this month calling for the tax to be scrapped. The committee was warned that the bedroom tax risked "fundamentally undermining" Scotland's progressive commitment to reducing homelessness and ensuring everyone has the right to a permanent home.
Policy manager at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations David Ogilvie said the Scottish Parliament could be justifiably proud of the country’s homelessness commitment, but said: "The ability to achieve its own targets is being fundamentally undermined by this (bedroom tax) policy." He added that homeless people could be left in temporary accommodation for far longer periods of time as people affected by the bedroom tax are moved into the few smaller properties available.
However, these criticisms come too late – given that 47 Labour MPs failed to turn up to Labour’s own debate to scrap the tax, in a vote which was lost by 26 votes. Among them were 10 Scottish Labour MPs – including Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar, who had previously demanded Nicola Sturgeon sign a bill to scrap the tax.
More than 30 Lib Dem MPs voted to uphold the government's hated Bedroom Tax - despite their own party members having condemned the policy at their party conference.
Commenting, SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:
“The Scottish Affairs Committee’s half-hearted call for the Bedroom Tax to be scrapped brings an end to a year of shame for Westminster.
"The Bedroom Tax is inherently unfair. People on the lowest incomes are paying the price for structural problems affecting the supply of affordable housing. The policy is also unworkable - instead of addressing the underlying issues, it undermines the ability of social landlords to invest in the kind of affordable housing that is so badly needed. This policy is imposed on Scotland, despite the fact over 90 per cent of Scottish MPs voted against it.
“One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system. That means only with a YES vote will we finally be able to get rid of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland."
The SNP is today calling on the No campaign to take inspiration from the spirit of Christmas by ditching Project Fear and raising the bar of its campaign message.
From a series of ridiculous scare stories that the anti-independence campaign have concocted in 2013, the most ridiculous are:
• Leader of the Scottish Tories Ruth Davidson claiming that viewers in an independent Scotland might not be able to watch Dr Who.
• The claim that people in an independent Scotland would face mobile roaming charges, despite the fact that the EU moved to abolish roaming earlier in the day.
• Andy Burnham, the UK Shadow Secretary of State for Health, has a fear of independence that is opposed to independence based on his claim that people will be forced to drive on the right as soon as the pass the border from England into an independent Scotland.
• The MOD threatens to annex Faslane naval base and the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons of mass destruction in the event of a Yes vote. Only for number 10 Downing Street to embarrassingly deny the claim hours later.
• Michael Moore warned of “nightmare” implications of Scotland NOT remaining part of the Common Travel Area, at the same time the UK government was making plans to deepen the Common Travel Area with Ireland by enabling business travellers and tourists from fast-growing Asian economies to travel on common visas between the two islands to boost their economies.
• The UK Government's "pound for independence" gaffe saw the Treasury say independence would cost just £1 each for the period 1999-2011 – backfiring on claims that an independent Scotland would be worse off .
With less than nine months to go until the referendum - and the Scottish Government’s plan for independence published and in the public domain - Stuart McMillan MSP says that 2014 presents the perfect time for a fresh start for the No campaign.
"The No campaign's self-styled Project Fear really isn’t in the spirit of Christmas – no wonder people are just switching off from it as people move from No to don’t know and don’t know to Yes.
“As Alistair Darling comes under fire from both the Tories and Labour he has to start the year afresh by presenting a positive vision of the future for Scotland.
“The contrast could not be clearer – Scotland’s Future, the blueprint for an independent Scotland is characterised by attainable ambition and hope.
“The No camp will say anything to talk Scotland down, because they are incapable of saying anything good about Scotland – but in this New Year it is up to Mr Darling and No camp to offer something better that the relentless negativity they have served up so far – if they can!”
Christmas trees in Scotland have been described as ‘greener than ever’ after more of Scotland’s electricity needs were met from renewables – but households were urged to play their part by ensuring that their trees are recycled.
The most recently published figures show that Scotland met 40.3% of its electricity consumption from renewable energy sources in 2012, compared to 20% when the SNP took office in 2007.
The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets for Scotland to become a renewable energy powerhouse, by generating the equivalent of 50% of electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2015 and 100% by 2020.
Meanwhile local authorities across Scotland are preparing to once again offer a range of methods by which people can recycle their Christmas trees, with households across Scotland being urged to plan now to dispose of their tree in an environmentally friendly way.
Commenting, SNP MSP Dennis Robertson said:
“This Christmas our trees are greener than ever, with more Christmas lights being powered from renewable sources.
“Scotland is now producing the equivalent of 40.3% of the electricity we use from renewable energy, compared to just 20% when the SNP took office.
“That is a significant step in making this Christmas a greener one for Scotland, but everyone has their own part to play when it comes to recycling their Christmas tree at the end of the festive period.
“Local authorities across Scotland offer a range of ways to help people recycle their trees after Christmas, from special uplifts to accepting used trees as part of a regular garden waste collection.
“I would encourage everyone in Scotland to play their part in making this a greener Christmas by checking what Christmas tree recycling services are available in their area and making plans to dispose of their tree in an environmentally friendly way.”
The SNP have highlighted that the number of healthcare staff providing emergency care to those who need it has gone up significantly since the SNP took office.
Over the festive period, the Scottish Ambulance Service expects to deal with an extra 6,000 incidents – a 20% surge in emergency calls during peak periods.
Figures released in answer to a parliamentary question have revealed that since the SNP took office, the number of paramedics has increased by 11% - up by 136 whole time equivalent (WTE) between September 2007 and September 2013 from 1,233.9 WTE to 1,369.9 WTE.
The number of emergency service technicians has also increased over the same period by 8% from 999.7 WTE to 1,084.5 WTE.
Meanwhile the number of A&E consultants has rocketed by 104% between September 2006 and September 2013, increasing from 75.8 WTE to 154.5 WTE.
Figures published in November showed that 94.8% of patients were treated in A&E departments within four hours.
Commenting, SNP MSP Aileen McLeod who sits on the Health and Sport Committee said:
“The number of paramedics, emergency service technicians and A&E consultants has gone up significantly since the SNP took office.
“Getting treated quickly when you’ve had an accident is hugely important to your care, which is why the SNP have put such priority on this area.
“The healthcare staff who provide emergency care when people have had accidents do a fantastic job, particularly at this time of year when there are increased pressures on the NHS. They deserve an enormous amount of gratitude for the vital work they do looking after us when we need it most.”
Following revelations that several of the latest raft of big-money donors to the No Campaign are also financial supporters of the Conservative Party, the SNP have said this highlights the Tory roots of the anti-independence campaign.
The donors include; a former spy, a Highland laird, a stockbroker involved in the Barings bank collapse and the chairman of an English Premier League club.
Commenting, Angus Robertson MP said:
“This list of donors to the No campaign is further proof that the anti-independence campaign is Tory to the core.
“It is led by a Tory Prime Minister and bankrolled by leading Tory party donors.
“No wonder traditional Labour supporters and grassroots members are turning their backs on the No camp which is simply a Tory front organisation funded by the same super-rich individuals who fund the Conservatives.
“Only a YES vote offers a better future with the opportunity to build a fairer and more prosperous nation.”
The No campaign has been left facing embarrassment today after an article by the boss of ASDA demolished claims that a Yes vote would see supermarkets hike up prices.
Writing in the Herald today (Thursday) ASDA Chief Executive Andy Clarke stated “I am not saying prices have to rise in an independent Scotland. I am saying that politicians of all sides need to work with business if they want to reduce the cost of doing business and in turn the cost of living.”
Meanwhile the Huffington Post reports that Morrisons have said it was “wrong” to suggest they are planning to increase food prices, stating “if an independent Scotland increased or decreased regulation or taxes we'd have to take a second look at our pricing. Clearly that could work for or against Scottish customers depending on the direction of travel.”
Tesco previously distanced themselves from the claims when they first appeared.
Scotland’s Future sets out plans for lower corporation tax and a fuel duty regulator in an independent Scotland, lowering the cost of doing business in an independent Scotland.
Anti-independence politicians had been quick to hype up the claims, with Margaret Curran claiming "the cost of doing the weekly shop in Scotland is cheaper as part of the UK and would be more expensive with independence."
Commenting, SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said:
“Once again the No campaign has been left facing embarrassment after jumping in with both feet and not a second’s thought.
“With supermarket bosses stressing that independence does not mean price rises, the anti-independence campaign has been left looking ridiculous in their hyperbolic reaction this week.
“Supermarkets are highly competitive and to suggest that they would hand their competitors such an easy advantage by imposing price rises is patently nonsense.
“What matters are the decisions that an independent Scotland makes and a Yes vote next year means that these will always reflect the needs and priorities of people living here.
“A Yes vote next year will give us the tools we need to make Scotland one of the most attractive places for companies to do business in Europe – benefitting businesses and the consumers they serve.
“Taking responsibility for tax and spending decisions in an independent Scotland will give us the tools we need to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country that achieves more for people than has ever been possible under the Westminster system.”
With youth unemployment at record levels and firms of all shapes and sizes finding life tough, an exciting ‘incubation’ project is being launched in Mayfield to give people the support and knowledge needed to start their own business.
Led by Midlothian North MSP Colin Beattie (SNP), a team of local companies and organisations have come together to offer complete business support for a year to around 20 entrepreneurs, also providing free use of facilities at McSence Business Park.
Known as the Business Launch Pad, they are looking for self-motivated and enthusiastic people who have a clear idea of the type of business they want to run but need help making this a reality.
Those offering their help and expertise are: Midlothian and East Lothian Chamber of Commerce; McSence; Morisons LLP; Tax Assist; Basically Tool Hire; and A4e – a company employed by the UK government to help the long-term unemployed back into work.
Together they will help people create a business plan and offer a range of services including mentoring, financial advice and computer equipment to get their business ideas off the ground.
Colin Beattie told the Advertiser he is keen to give people a start in business, particularly school leavers.
He said: “All these kids are looking for jobs that don’t exist, so let’s encourage them to start their own business.
“We are going to offer these youngsters a year’s free accommodation, all the advice and expertise they need and hopefully they can then work away on their own after that.”
An analysis of the most recent Scottish samples from UK-wide polls conducted by six leading polling companies has shown that the SNP continues to lead when it comes to Westminster voting intentions.
The six polls have a combined Scottish sample of 576 people and were conducted between 7 November and 5 December. The combined surveys of Westminster voting intention put the SNP on 35%, up 15% on the 2010 result, while Labour were down 11% on 31%. The combined poll samples put backing for the Tories on 19% and the LibDems on 7%.
Commenting, SNP Business Convener Derek Mackay MSP said:
“This latest analysis of Westminster voting intentions shows that people in Scotland continue to trust the SNP to deliver for them.
“This lead shows that support across Scotland remains strong for key SNP policies such as the council tax freeze, delivering over 1,000 additional police officers who have driven crime down to a 39 year low and the small business bonus that has helped thousands of businesses.
“People in Scotland have given the SNP their backing because of what we have achieved with the limited powers of devolution.
“With the powers of an independent Scotland that only a Yes vote next year can bring, we will be able to do even more to make Scotland the fairer, more prosperous country we know it can be.”
The announcement that Edinburgh Councillor Alex Lunn has quit the Labour party in order to join the SNP has been hailed today as further proof that a YES vote is drawing in support from across Scotland.
The Councillor for the Craigentinny/Duddingston area was quoted as saying “for over a year now I have been feeling the best way forward for Scotland is to become an independent country.
“And the only way I can really campaign for independence is to join the SNP. Labour has made it clear it wants Scotland to stay part of the Union and as a Labour councillor you are expected to adhere to that.”
He also added: “The SNP is now more in line with my political views than Labour.”
Councillor Lunn’s decision to join the SNP means that SNP representation on Edinburgh City Council has now increased to 18 councillors.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern Kenny MacAskill said:
“The news that Councillor Lunn has decided to join the SNP and campaign for a Yes vote next year is extremely welcome.
“It is further proof that the case for an independent Scotland is drawing in support from across Scotland, as more and more people share our vision for what we can achieve with a YES vote.
“It is also a firm demonstration that the SNP is on the side of the people when it comes to the social contract policies our citizens rely on.
“Where Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission is determined to take the axe to vital services, the SNP is protecting key measures like free prescriptions, care for the elderly and extra police officers to protect Scotland’s communities.
“That is why people across Scotland are continuing to back the SNP and the policies we are continuing to deliver.”
The Scottish National Party today welcomed two significant interventions from impartial experts in the economic debate about Scottish independence.
First, currency experts at Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc have made supportive comments that the best currency option for an independent Scotland is to retain the pound as part of a currency area with the rest of the UK.
Oliver Harvey, a strategist at Deutsche Bank, said: “Scotland fits an optimum currency area with the rest of the UK very well… It wouldn’wouldn't make any sense for Scotland not to have the pound.”
Valentin Marinov, the head of European Group-of-10 currency strategy at Citigroup said: “Given the close economic ties between the two and assuming that these ties need not weaken going forward, the potential introduction of a currency union need not affect significantly trade and other flows.”
Second, the economic case for a Yes vote has been further boosted with an analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), which concludes that: "Scotland’s debt burden will be lower than the UK's in all cases."
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“These interventions in the referendum debate by impartial experts are extremely welcome and significant. The views of currency experts at Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc validate the common-sense position that a sterling area between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK suits the interests of both countries.
"And the analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research which concludes that: ‘Scotland’s debt burden will be lower than the UK’s in all cases’ demonstrates that Scotland is financially stronger than the UK as a whole, and that therefore we've got what it takes to be an independent country.
“As the debate continues, the more people are recognising the value of a YES vote and the gains of independence.”