The SNP is today highlighting reform proposals that will give retired Lords continued access to subsidised restaurants and bars in the House of Lords.
Proposed reforms designed as an incentive to encourage peers to ‘retire’ is that they can continue to use the facilities and have access to the numerous restaurants and bars to entertain clients and business contacts. The House of Lords currently consists of over 830 members – largely comprised of cronies and Westminster party donors.
The SNP – whose long standing position is not to take peerages - have previously raised the issue of ‘cash for peerages’ with Scotland Yard.
This new plan will mean that even for retired peers the privileged partying can carry on – with little or no scrutiny and will open parliament up to further potential of sleaze with a total lack of accountability.
Angus MacNeil SNP MP commented: “At a time when many people across Scotland are struggling to make ends meet, proposals to allow retired peers to continue to use lavish Lords facilities at taxpayers’ expense take the biscuit. It seems the festive season never ends for peers.
“Earlier this year, I wrote to the Metropolitan Police urging them to review new evidence about cash for peerage deals admitted by Liberal Democrat party treasurer Lord Razzall. But it seems that just as we get to grips with one scandal another emerges.
“At Westminster, we already have the ludicrous situation that there are far more legislators who are appointed than elected. It beggars believe that in 2014 we still have a system of unelected peers claiming up to £300 a day just to clock in.
“The SNP's long-standing position is that we believe those making laws should be elected by the people, and therefore we do not nominate members to the House of Lords.
“With Tory austerity set to continue as at least £25bn more in cuts heads Scotland’s way, it is time for the Westminster parties to review this ludicrous proposal.”
The SNP it today welcoming a new expert report which has found that Scotland’s higher education system is “world-class” – and that the impact of the research of Scotland’s higher education institutions is performing higher than the UK average.
The research Excellent Framework (REF) 2014 results has found that each of Scotland’s 18 higher education institutions undertakes research of “world-leading” quality – and that 77 per cent of Scottish research submitted to REF in 2014 was “world-leading” compared to a UK average of 76.1 per cent.
This new report comes on the back of previous studies showing Scotland as the “most highly-educated country in Europe” and the best place to study in the UK.
Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said:
“This report is a welcome confirmation of the incredible strength of Scotland’s higher education sector – and shows that the SNP’s continued commitment to our universities is paying dividends.
“Scotland’s higher education sector is leading the world - and it’s right that the hard work of students and staff is recognised in helping to achieve these extraordinary results. That Scotland’s universities are outperforming the rest of the UK in research is testament to their skills and hard work.
“That we have managed to create the circumstances in which our universities can thrive to this extent – and ensure that university education continues to be based on the ability to learn rather than the ability to pay – is one of the great successes of the SNP in government. And with continued SNP investment in our education sector, our universities will continue to go from strength to strength.”
The scale of the problems facing Labour’s new leadership team has been made clear today as a new opinion poll gave the SNP a record lead.
The contest was sparked after Johann Lamont stood down, revealing that Labour in Scotland is treated like a ‘branch office’ by the party’s Westminster bosses.
A new YouGov poll published in today’s Sun has shown the SNP’s lead for next year's General Election continuing to grow to a new record level, as people across Scotland send out the message that the Westminster parties are failing to meet their expectations.
The poll put support for the SNP at 47 per cent – up 4 per cent on YouGov’s last poll and up 27 per cent on the 2010 result – while Labour is 20 points behind on 27 per cent. The poll puts support for the Tories at 16 per cent while the LibDems trail far behind on just 3 per cent – down 16 per cent on the 2010 result.
The same poll also asked people in Scotland about their view of the Smith Commission proposals and found that 51 per cent of people thought that they failed to go far enough, 23 per cent of people thought it got the balance right and 14 per cent of people think they go too far. And the poll out support for independence ahead at 47 per cent, to 45 per cent opposed.
Commenting, SNP Depute Leader Stewart Hosie MP said:
“I congratulate both Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale on their election to Leader and Deputy Leader.
“Jim Murphy takes over just as the scale of their problems are laid bare in the new YouGov poll - showing record levels of support for the SNP for next year's General Election. Mr Murphy spent two years campaigning side by side with the Tories in Scotland, and in that sense he is part of Labour's problem in Scotland, not the solution. And his strong support for tuition fees puts him at marked variance with mainstream opinion in Scotland.
“Today's poll also makes clear the scale of the disappointment that is felt across Scotland at the Westminster parties’ failure to meet people's aspirations for more powers.
“It even indicates that Jim Murphy’s own seat would be vulnerable on these poll ratings.
“People feel let down by the Westminster parties, and by Labour in particular, and are putting their trust in the SNP in increasing numbers.
“There is a clear recognition that the only way to ensure Scotland gains the job-creating and welfare powers we need is by electing a strong team of SNP MPs in May, and we will be working hard every day to secure that support.”
Speaking ahead of Monday’s Infrastructure Bill debate in the House of Commons - in which SNP MPs will seek to block UK Government plans to allow fracking companies to drill under land without the consent of the owners - SNP Energy Spokesperson Mike Weir MP said:
“We are committed to opposing the clauses in the Infrastructure Bill which would introduce a right for those companies involved in fracking to carry out operations under properties without the permission of the landowner. We consider this to be unacceptable and removes property holders rights to hold to object to such operations, limited though they may be at present.”
“The Scottish Parliament has legislative control over planning and environmental measures but it is unclear as to how these powers interact with the powers retained by the UK government to grant Licences under the Petroleum Act and associated rights on holders of such licences under the Mines Act 1966.
“I have raised these issues with Ministers in two previous debates but have been unable to get any answer. I suspect the real answer is that these new clauses were introduced in a hurry in order to deal with a specific issue with English law of Trespass.
“No account was taken as to the situation in Scotland. The law of property in Scotland is a devolved matter yet these clauses cut across property rights of landowners and no account has been taken of this, nor has any attempt been made to involve the Scottish Parliament. This is a direct contravention of the Sewell Convention. This is a perfect illustration why all powers over fracking, both licensing and planning, should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.”
“The Smith Commission recognised this but, with the best will in the world, even if the Smith Commission proposals are speedily enacted by whomsoever forms the next Westminster Government it is likely to be at least a year until such powers are transferred. A great deal of irreparable damage could be done in the meantime.
“The UK government should accept that this is a matter that should rest with the Scottish Parliament and, at the very least, remove Scotland from the ambit of these clauses .They should seek immediately to transfer the power of licensing to the Scottish Parliament.”
Chancellor George Osborne has delivered his Autumn Statement. After the election in 2010 the Tories promised that debt would begin to fall as a share of GDP by 2014/15: that the current account should be in balance by 2015/16 and that public sector net borrowing would fall to £20 billion in the same year
The reality is debt will not begin to fall as a share of GDP until 2016/17 at the earliest: the current account will not be in the black until 2018 at the earliest and the Public Sector Net borrowing will not be £20 billion in 2015/16 – it will be more than three times that at up to £75 billion.
Commenting after today’s Autumn Statement SNP Depute Leader and Treasury Spokesman Stewart Hosie MP said:
“The Autumn Statement delivered by George Osborne today confirmed why the SNP are right to call for more powers for Scotland.
“That is to give our Parliament the tools to grow the economy and improve the life chances of the Scottish people.
“We saw today the consequences of London taking economic decisions for Scotland.
“Today’s statement was merely a continuation of a failed austerity programme from an austerity Government which has failed to deliver the growth the economy needs and which has set out to balance the books on the back of the poor.
“Any Barnett consequentials must be set against the scale of cuts Scotland has faced over the last 4 years.
“Remember what George Osborne promised when the Tories came to power.
“He has failed to meet even one of the targets he set for himself.
“Tory policy has strangled the recovery and with £75 billion of cuts to come we are on track for a decade of austerity.
“Austerity has failed.
“That is why we must have full economic decision making power in Scotland to deliver prosperity with a purpose – to grow the economy and deliver real social justice.”