Wednesday, 30 June 2010

TREASURY FORECASTS REVEAL ‘CHILLING’ JOBS THREAT


TREASURY FORECASTS REVEAL ‘CHILLING’ JOBS THREAT

Seizing on reports that cuts announced in the Budget could lead to up
to 1.3 million jobs being lost by 2015, SNP Treasury spokesperson
Stewart Hosie MP said the leaked figures underlined concerns that
Con/Dem cuts were going too far, too fast and risking recovery.

Mr Hosie said:

“These estimates are a chilling warning of the impact that making cuts
too far and too fast will have on the economy. The Tories, backed by
the Liberal Democrats, are putting Scottish jobs on the line and
recovery at risk.

“Labour left the public finances in a mess, but the new UK Government
is making things worse by taking money out of the economy which should
be used to support jobs and recovery.

“This frightening forecast reinforces the case for financial
responsibility for Scotland, so that we can make our own decisions and
use our own powers over taxation, spending and other key economic
levers in order to grow the Scottish economy.

“Financial responsibility can enable us to do what we need to
safeguard jobs, build economic success and a fair society. Growth is
the key to moving beyond the difficulties that the Westminster
government has delivered to Scotland, and secure a better and
sustainable future.”

WEIR WARNING ON POSTAL PRIVATISATION PLAN


WEIR WARNING ON POSTAL PRIVATISATION PLAN

SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson Mike Weir MP has described reports the
Con/Dem government are considering giving postal workers shares in
Royal Mail, through a John Lewis-style trust, under privatisation
plans, as a “fig leaf”.

Mr Weir said:

“This is just a fig leaf for the sell-off because the majority of
shares would still be held by private investors whose sole focus would
be private profit not public good.

“Royal Mail is not just another business, but a vital public service
and any privatisation will undermine and put the universal service
obligation at risk, whether or not a small percentage of shares are
retained for the workforce.

“Previous privatisation schemes that encouraged small shareholders
have not prevented companies being taken over.

“The future of our postal services must be as a vibrant public
service, and the government should focus on investing in Royal Mail as
a public service for the public good.”

EMBARRASSMENT FOR ANNABEL GOLDIE ON PRISON SENTENCING – CLARKE SPEECH


EMBARRASSMENT FOR ANNABEL GOLDIE ON PRISON SENTENCING – CLARKE SPEECH

SAFER SCOTLAND WILL COME BY DRIVING DOWN REOFFENDING RATES

Annabel Goldie and the Holyrood Tories have been left high and dry by their London party bosses says SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, after the Westminster Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke signalled that he wants courts in England to impose fewer jail sentences of less than 12 months – when the Scots Tories are set to vote against a presumption against sentences of less than 3 months today in the Scottish Parliament!  Mr Clarke’s plans for south of the Border could include a big reduction in jail sentences of less than a year – a much greater move than the SNP Government’s proposals.

Kenneth Clarke’s move also leaves Labour in Scotland as the most right-wing and out of touch party on law and order issues.

Commenting Mr Maxwell – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee – said:

“This is an incredible embarrassment for Annabel Goldie and the Holyrood Tories, who have been left high and dry by Kenneth Clarke.  The question has to be asked if the UK Government even bothered to tell Annabel Goldie about Kenneth Clarke’s speech – being delivered on the very same day as the key votes on the Criminal Justice Bill on short sentences.

“The UK Government’s move also exposes Labour in Scotland as the most right-wing and out of touch party on law and order issues – Labour backbenchers were already deeply uncomfortable with Richard Baker’s inept, hard right approach to the justice brief.

“Kenneth Clarke’s speech will cause both Tory and Labour MSPs to squirm with embarrassment on the Holyrood benches.

“The Tories – and Labour – have spent the last three years supporting taxpayers money being wasted on free bed and board for people who should be paying back their debts to society through hard work.  Their position increases reoffending and doesn’t create a safer Scotland.

“Instead of indulging in ill-informed posturing, it is about time that Annabel Goldie showed some leadership for once and provided some positive answers on what they would do about sentencing – as Ken Clarke has done for the Tories in England.

“To date we have heard nothing but cheap sound bites – which have just turned to ash in their mouths.”

RENNIE QUITS AFTER ONLY SIX WEEKS DEFENDING TORY POLICIES


RENNIE QUITS AFTER ONLY SIX WEEKS DEFENDING TORY POLICIES

Commenting on news that former Liberal Democrat MP for Dunfermline and
West Fife, Willie Rennie, has quit his role as Scotland Office special
adviser after just six weeks, SNP MP Angus MacNeil said:

“Six weeks of defending Tory policies which hit the poorest in
Scotland was obviously six weeks too many for Willie Rennie, and his
departure reflects the Lib Dems' crashing support in the polls.

“Voters in Scotland feel sorely let down by the Liberal Democrats for
selling out to the Tories, which is why many former Lib Dem supporters
will vote SNP next year for fair policies and a strong economy.”

BARE FACED CHEEK and HYPOCRISY FROM LABOUR ON CANCER TIMES

 
BARE FACED CHEEK and HYPOCRISY FROM LABOUR ON CANCER TIMES
 
LABOUR’S ATTACK ON NHS STAFF OUTRAGEOUS
 
SNP MSP Dr Ian McKee – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee – has slammed the Labour party for bare faced cheek and hypocrisy after they attacked the Scottish Government when new figures show its target for cancer treatment waiting times has been EXCEEDED.
 
Mr McKee said the ridiculous comments were fundamentally an attack on NHS for successfully meeting this target.
 
Between January and March this year, 96.5% of patients started treatment within two months of being referred, according to health service statistics. The target set by the SNP Government is 95% by 2011.
 
Commenting Dr McKee said:
  
“This is just outright hypocrisy and bare faced cheek from Jackie Baillie and the Labour party.
  
“It’s about time the Labour party got itself out of its negative, hypocritical trough and instead praised the staff of our health service for meeting this target.
 
"In fact my own local board, NHS Lothian, achieved 99.2% - the best record on mainland Scotland.
 
“If anyone should be humbled by these figures it is the Labour party who failed abysmally to ensure this target was met when they were in power. In fact they never got within 10% of this target.”

BREATHTAKING TORY HYPOCRISY ON CABINET TOURS

 
BREATHTAKING TORY HYPOCRISY ON CABINET TOURS
   
“TORIES SHOULD APOLOGISE TO FOLK IN DORNOCH, STIRLING, BUTE AND KILMARNOCK”
   
Commenting on the announcement by the UK Tory-led government that it is to undertake cabinet meetings outside London the SNP’s Chief Whip, Brian Adam MSP, said it was breathtaking hypocrisy from the Tories since they had been attacking the Scottish Government for doing so in Scotland – and far more cheaply than the London government’s tours.
   
Comment Mr Adam said:
   
“It is clear that the Scottish Government’s Summer Cabinet tours have been a huge success – which is why Labour and now the Tories have copied the SNP.
   
“However it is breathtaking hypocrisy for the Tories to now boast about this practice when they have been attacking it in Scotland. Perhaps Ted Brocklebank and Murdo Fraser would like to repeat their attacks on the UK government?
   
“The fact is that today’s announcement leaves the Tories red faced in Scotland – and they should apologise to folk in Dornoch, Stirling, Bute, and Kilmarnock for trying to stop Scotland’s government coming to their communities this summer. Typically, the Con/Dem UK government have not appeared to announce any plans to visit Scotland.
     
“The SNP’s cabinet tours are an excellent initiative to take government to communities all across Scotland, and local people are clearly extremely enthusiastic about these opportunities to meet and engage with ministers.
  
“The figures also show that the SNP are conducting the business of government in a far more cost effective way than the UK government – a single meeting of the UK Cabinet in Southampton in 2009 cost over 25% more than all five Scottish Government summer Cabinet meetings combined that year.”

IRAQ RETURNS TO HAUNT LABOUR


IRAQ RETURNS TO HAUNT LABOUR

APPEAL FOR LABOUR CANDOUR AS CHILCOT RESUMES

As the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war resumes after a
four-and-a-half-month break, SNP Westminster leader and Defence
spokesperson Angus Robertson MP appealed, with the general election
now passed, for witnesses called from the previous Labour government
to give evidence with total candour.

Mr Robertson said:

“With considerations of the general election passed, witnesses called
from the previous Labour government can and must now speak with total
frankness in the evidence they give.  Iraq was symbolic of how Labour
can't be trusted and it has now returned to haunt them.

“Labour’s leadership contenders have already distanced themselves from
this disastrous war, despite defending it while in office until just a
few weeks ago. I hope we will see similar candour when former
Ministers give their evidence in the weeks ahead.

“Getting to the truth behind this disastrous war is infinitely more
important than protecting Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s legacy.

“The Iraq war has been the single biggest foreign policy disaster in
modern times.  The UK was led to war on a lie about weapons of mass
destruction and hundreds of our brave troops and countless civilians
have paid the ultimate price for this deception.”

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

ACADEMICS WARN OVER CALMAN CHANGES


ACADEMICS WARN OVER CALMAN CHANGES

FINANCIAL MEASURES ARE LONDON PARTIES’ POLL TAX ON SCOTLAND

The SNP has seized on a warning that public spending cuts would be
greater in Scotland under Calman commission’s financial plans to
change devolution.

Professors Andrew Hughes Hallett and Drew Scott have warned that
Calman changes will have a "more severe" effect in Scotland than in
other parts of the UK, and that recommendations from the commission
could result in a 25% cut in spending, lost income tax revenue and an
inability to use higher VAT to compensate.

Commenting on the findings, SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said:

“The Calman financial proposals have been overtaken by events, and
exposed as the London parties’ Poll Tax – with Labour, the Tories and
the Lib Dems all planning to impose this financial whammy on Scotland
when what we need is real financial responsibility.

“The emergency Budget last week shows why Calman couldn’t work, while
the GERS figures showing a Scottish surplus of £1.3 billion compared
to a UK-wide deficit of £48.9 billion completes the case for Scotland
to be responsible for our own resources.

“With the Tory/LibDem budget threatening Scottish growth and the
Labour party unable to protect Scotland – having created the mess in
the first place – only financial responsibility and independence for
Scotland can help Scotland’s economy grow more strongly and build
recovery.”

***

LORD MCCONNELL PRESSED ON HOLYROOD ROLE


LORD MCCONNELL PRESSED ON HOLYROOD ROLE

DOUBLE JOB GOES AGAINST KELLY RECOMMENDATIONS

SNP MSP for Central Scotland Christina McKelvie, has called on Jack
McConnell to confirm that he will not stand as a candidate in forthcoming
Holyrood election after he was ennobled this afternoon.

Ms McKelvie said it went against the spirit of the Kelly recommendations
on Standards in Public Life which call for the phasing out of dual
mandates by 2011.

Commenting, Christina McKelvie said:

“Jack McConnell’s constituents in Motherwell and Wishaw don’t know if
their MSP is coming or going. First, he was to be made High Commissioner
of Malawi, and now he’s off to the Lords!

“Jack McConnell’s decision to remain at Holyrood whilst enjoying all the
perks of a peerage goes against the spirit of the Kelly recommendations,
and he should confirm his intentions for the forthcoming Scottish
Parliament election immediately.”

FINANCIAL SECRETARY SHOULD RELEASE FOSSIL FUEL LEVY MONEY


FINANCIAL SECRETARY SHOULD RELEASE FOSSIL FUEL LEVY MONEY

Commenting before the UK Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander is questioned by the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee tomorrow (Tuesday), Committee member Joe FitzPatrick MSP said that the meeting was an opportunity for him to announce that the UK government will release Scotland’s money that has accumulated in the Fossil Fuel Levy.

Commenting Mr FitzPatrick said:

“It was clear from the previous session between the Parliament’s Committee Conveners and Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, that Scotland is in line for severe budget cuts from the Tory-led London government as a result of the economic mess left by the previous Labour Government.

“In those circumstances it is even more important that we get firm answers on key issues such as the future of the Fossil Fuel Levy.  It was disappointing that the Secretary of State did not have a firmer answer to give Parliament as to when the rules would be amended to give Scotland access to this vital but currently inaccessible fund.

“However tomorrow’s meeting between the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Finance Committee give the London government the opportunity to finally make clear their intentions in principle that Scotland’s money which has accumulated in the Fossil Fuel Levy should be released.

“The budget may have said they will review the current situation but that does not preclude them from taking a stance on a point of principle.

“We are simply asking for this to be released in a way that increases the Scottish Government’s spending power, enabling us to invest over £186 million in renewable energy – making a crucial contribution to creating jobs and boosting economic recovery.”

OVER 23 BILLION DOLLARS OF OIL DISCOVERED IN NORTH SEA


OVER 23 BILLION DOLLARS OF OIL DISCOVERED IN NORTH SEA

NORTH SEA WINDFALL ADDS TO CASE FOR INDEPENDENCE

Commenting on news today [Monday] that up to 300 million barrels of oil have been discovered in the North Sea, Aberdeen North MSP Brian Adam said that this only adds to the overwhelming evidence that Scotland would be in a better position financially if independent. Mr Adam renewed calls for an oil fund, similar to that of Norway’s, in order to avoid the mistakes of the past and stop this Tory Government blowing this windfall like Thatcher did with the first.

At the current price of $78.08 a barrel, this would equate to $23,424 000 000.

The discovery by EnCore Oil is one of the largest in the past decade and described as “exceptional” by the company. The news comes just one week after official GERS figures showed that an Independent Scotland would see a budget surplus of over £1 Billion and the UK struggling with a deficit of almost £50 billion.

SNP MSP Brian Adam said:

“This is good news for the North East and the whole of Scotland. The oil industry has contributed a great deal to Scotland, especially in Aberdeen, and it’s showing no sign of drying up despite the pessimistic view taken by the London Parties in the 70’s.

“An Oil Fund would protect Scotland from times of economic uncertainty and also help protect and create jobs.

“In the 1970’s the UK treasury tried to hide the real the potential of North Sea oil and the boost it would give to an independent Scotland – this can’t happen again. The time for an Oil Fund is now, Scotland’s resources should be funding employment, education and our National Health Service – not Nuclear Weapons, not illegal wars and not ID cards.

“Just last week the GERS figures showed Scotland with £1.3billion surplus, while the UK as a whole is suffering from a deficit of £48.9 billion – the case for financial independence couldn’t be any stronger.”

MP CALLS FOR FIFA REVIEW ON REPLAY EVIDENCE


MP CALLS FOR FIFA REVIEW ON REPLAY EVIDENCE

An SNP MP has called on FIFA to reverse its opposition to the use of
television replay evidence in football matches. Western Isles MP,
Angus MacNeil, has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for a review
after England’s second goal was disallowed when match officials failed
to agree that Frank Lampard has scored.

Mr MacNeil said:

“England were cheated and, while there is no evidence that allowing
Frank Lampard’s goal would have changed the final outcome, it would
certainly have changed the atmosphere of the match and given the team
something to play for.

“Almost all major sports now use replay evidence, and FIFA should
embrace goal-line technology in the interests of fair play for fans,
players and referees.”

WHITEFORD WARNING ON CHANCELLOR’S INCAPACITY CUTS

WHITEFORD WARNING ON CHANCELLOR’S INCAPACITY CUTS

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, has warned
that coalition government plans to cut sickness benefits must be based
on genuine medical evidence.

Dr Whiteford said:

“George Osborne’s language suggests he is only concerned with reducing
the number of claimants, regardless of the needs of individuals, or of
the medical evidence.

“While supporting benefit reform, genuinely vulnerable individuals
must not become an easy target for Con/Dem cuts.

“There are already huge questions over the assessment process with
people undergoing chemotherapy, in some cases terminally ill people,
being ordered to attend back-to-work interviews.

“Return-to-work initiatives can benefit both the economy and the
individual, but people should only return to the workplace when they
are genuinely able and when correct support measures are available.

“Existing safeguards are not working and, with major reforms in the
pipeline, we need real guarantees to ensure that that people living
with genuine incapacity and ill health are spared added stress and
uncertainty.”

Sunday, 27 June 2010

TORIES BACK PEDALLING TO HARD RIGHT POLICIES OF 1980S


TORIES BACK PEDALLING TO HARD RIGHT POLICIES OF 1980S

Commenting on the suggestion by UK Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, that longterm unemployed people living in council homes could be offered incentives to move to areas where there are jobs, SNP Work & Pensions Spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are on a tandem – pedalling straight back to the ‘get on your bike’ hard right policies of the Thatcher years.

“13 years of Labour Government have left the most vulnerable in society in a perilous position. Instead of endangering economic recovery with short-sighted cuts and reverting to policies which proved disastrous in the 1980s, the new coalition Government should be investing in growth and job creation across the UK.”

Saturday, 26 June 2010

SNP WESTMINSTER LEADER DEFENCE TRIBUTE ON FORCES DAY


SNP WESTMINSTER LEADER DEFENCE TRIBUTE ON FORCES DAY

Marking Armed Forces Day, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP has paid tribute to exceptional and critical work carried out by the armed forces in Scotland and around the world.

Mr Robertson noted that the upcoming Strategic Defence Review was an opportunity to reverse the dramatic under spend seen in Scotland over the past 13 years.

As MP for Moray, Mr Robertson represents the most service personnel in Scotland with both RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss in his constituency. He will mark Armed Forces Day at an event in Keith, Banffshire with service personnel.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

“Our service personnel and their families make huge sacrifices to ensure that our rights, freedoms and way of life are defended and maintained.

“Forces personnel serve our country in all parts of the world, often under the most testing and dangerous circumstances and, regretfully, too often at terrible cost.

"Armed Forces Day is an important opportunity to express our thanks and respect for the sacrifices made on our behalf.

"I have no doubt that the challenges our forces face on the frontline are made a little easier when they know that their communities back home are proud of them and wish them well."

Mr Robertson added:

“People in Scotland support our armed forces, and are proud of the nation's military tradition, but Scotland has been massively short changed on its share of defence spending over the past 13 years.

“Since the last Strategic Defence Review, the Labour Government has presided over a £5.6bn defence under spend with 10,000 defence jobs lost North of the Border.

“The forthcoming review is a chance to turn this around and prevent more damaging decline.”

Friday, 25 June 2010

GREATER CLARITY NEEDED OVER AFGHAN WITHDRAWAL


GREATER CLARITY NEEDED OVER AFGHAN WITHDRAWAL

Responding to the announcement by the Prime Minister that he plans to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan before the next UK election which is scheduled for 2015, SNP Westminster Leader and Defence Spokesman Angus Robertson MP said:

“President Obama has already stated his intention to bring American troops home by July next year.

“If the US President can offer such certainty, why are British service personnel being fobbed off with vague commitments?

“In the run up to Armed Forces Day, we’ve seen massive public backing for the service men and women fighting in Afghanistan. It’s time the UK Government started offering similar support.”

EDINBURGH TO HOST KEY UK BODY


EDINBURGH TO HOST KEY UK BODY
LABOUR BLOCK ON EDINBURGH OVERTURNED
SNP MSP Dr Ian McKee has today welcomed the news that the British - Irish Council is to be based in Edinburgh.
Last November plans to base the council's secretariat in Edinburgh were blocked by the former Labour Government.
The decision to base the Council in Edinburgh was taken today at a meeting of the British Irish Council in Guernsey.
Lothians MSP Dr McKee said:
"This is good news for Edinburgh and brings a prestigious organisation to the capital.
"Labour's efforts to block the Council being based in Scotland were ridiculous.  They put their prejudices against the SNP Government before the good of Edinburgh and of inter-governmental relations.
"Edinburgh and Scotland are perfectly placed to co-ordinate between the nations of the British Irish Council. 
"There are huge economic opportunities for Scotland, working with the other nations and islands of the British Irish Council and now there are huge opportunities for Edinburgh as the centre of inter-governmental relations."
1. Details of Labour's refusal to allow the secretariat to be based in Edinburgh can be found at the link below:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1114/1224258816380.html

JOYCE JOINS CALLS FOR TRIDENT REVIEW WITH CHALLENGE TO LABOUR


JOYCE JOINS CALLS FOR TRIDENT REVIEW WITH CHALLENGE TO LABOUR

The SNP has welcomed calls by a Labour MP, and former Defence aide,
Eric Joyce for Labour to rethink it's stance on the replacement for
the UK's Trident nuclear deterrent, saying the current policy is
"flawed."

Writing on his blog, Mr Joyce said the decision to leave Trident out
of the strategic defence review - which is also the policy of the
coalition government – is “inexplicable” and that the party was
operating under the assumption that if it was to call for Trident to
be included in the defence review, the public would assume it had
“returned to the desperate days of the 1980s.”

SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, said:

“Labour may still be fighting political battles of the 1980s, but the
Cold War is long over and the future of Trident should be considered
the context, today, of a changed world with different threats and
defence priorities.

“However uncomfortable it is for Labour, Eric Joyce is right to put
this on the agenda, particularly during the leadership contest. The
Milibands, Balls and Burnham have been keen to separate themselves
from many of the actions of Labour in Government, despite their
cabinet roles, so what do they now think of spending £100 billion on
nuclear weapons while cutting spending on public services.

“A strategic defence review is necessary to prioritise our defence
needs in a changed world, but you cannot have a meaningful debate
about that if you start by excluding the future of the Trident
programme.

“Our view remains that it should be scrapped and more so, at a time
when public spending faces savage cuts across the board, the time has
come to accept that Trident can no longer be treated as some sacred
cow.”

SNP URGE ACTION TO BRING DOWN FUEL COSTS


SNP URGE ACTION TO BRING DOWN FUEL COSTS

TREASURY DRIVES DIESEL PRICE TO HIGHEST IN EUROPE

SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson, Angus MacNeil MP, has made a
direct plea to new Treasury Minister Danny Alexander to act on fuel
prices.

Drivers in the UK now pay 11p more than anyone else in Europe for a
litre of diesel – as a result of the Treasury tax take. Official
figures on fuel prices across the continent show diesel now costs
122.8p a litre in Britain, 39.2p more than in Cyprus, where drivers
pay the least.

Crisis-hit Greece is the second-most-expensive place to buy fuel but,
despite the country’s economic meltdown, diesel still costs only
111.8p.

Mr MacNeil made a direct appeal to fellow Highland MP Danny Alexander,
now chief secretary to the Treasury, reminding the Liberal Democrat
Minister of his pre-election promises of action on fuel prices.

Mr MacNeil said:

“It’s a national scandal that, in an oil rich country like Scotland,
we are paying the highest fuel prices in Europe.

“There was no relief in the Budget, but the Treasury must act because
soaring fuel prices are actually hindering economic recovery from
recession.

“We need action on fuel prices immediately not more Treasury
consultations and delays. Other countries already operate derogations
successfully and there is absolutely no reason why the Treasury cannot
implement a similar system in Scotland as well.

“Before the election the LibDems were shouting from the rooftops about
fuel prices, but since taking office in the Treasury Danny Alexander
seems to have forgotten about the plight of motorists and businesses
in the North of Scotland. Danny Alexander must stand and deliver on
fair fuel prices and put an end to Labour’s highway robbery.”

MP IN NOMINATION PROTEST AT COMMITTEE STITCH UP


MP IN NOMINATION PROTEST AT COMMITTEE STITCH UP

Perth and North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart is set to submit
nomination papers for election to the newly created House of Commons
Backbench Business Committee in protest after MPs from the seven
smaller parties represented in parliament were disqualified from
standing.

Mr Wishart hopes his nomination will be supported by MPs from across
the parties after the Speaker announced that the committee would be
composed exclusively of the Tory-led government and Labour parties.

The newly created Backbench Business Committee is responsible for
setting non-ministerial business in the House of Commons.

Mr Wishart said:

“This committee was supposed to increase accountability and democracy
in the House of Commons, but instead the smaller parties have been
carved-out completely.

“At a time when Westminster has had such a bad, it does not help the
reputation of parliament to exclude democratically elected MPs from
even putting their name forward – it is a democratic disgrace.

“Although the rules disqualify me from being elected to the committee,
I intend submitting nomination papers with support from MPs across the
House of Commons to underline the unacceptability of this situation.”

Thursday, 24 June 2010

SNP BUDGET RESPONSE


SNP BUDGET RESPONSE

Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney will tonight present the SNP’s budget response.

The response which will be broadcast across BBC Scotland and STV sets out the SNP’s reaction to the Conservative and Lib Dem announcement of spending cuts and tax rises to manage Labour’s debts and the unprecedented challenge Scotland now faces to secure growth, recovery and strong public services.

In the response Mr Swinney will say:

"On Tuesday the new UK Government announced its Budget. This told us what we already knew – that we are facing the most challenging financial period for decades created by the last Labour government.

"Labour also cut Scotland’s budget by £500 million before the last election.

"Something needs to be done to sort Labour’s mess whilst protecting vital services. But there is a very real risk that by accelerating deep spending cuts the new UK Government is making matters even worse. Labour promised spending cuts that would be deeper and tougher than Margaret Thatcher's but the new government has gone much further.

"The recovery is still fragile and the Scottish Government’s key priority is to protect that recovery. Going too far and too fast could jeopardise that.

"This Budget has taken money out of the economy, cash that could have been used to support jobs and growth.

"Rushing into more cuts, on top of those already made by Labour, could choke off the recovery before it’s had a chance to flourish.

"The UK’s financial mess has been clear for some time.  That’s why in February the Scottish Government established the Independent Budget Review in Scotland.

"That expert Review has been taking evidence from people and key organisations the length and breadth of the country and will provide vital input to us on the way ahead.

"The SNP Government has already done much to help household budgets in tough times – measures like the year on year council tax freeze and phasing out prescription charges.

"We've also taken the lead in delivering efficient Government while protecting services. Last year we beat our efficiencies target by 300 million pounds. A lot of Westminster politicians have been promising to deliver on efficiencies but we have already done it.

"Meanwhile, the Westminster Government is cutting in the wrong places, such as disability living allowance and child benefit. And it's a disgrace that we are about to shell out £100 billion on new weapons of mass destruction. Not only is that morally wrong but it would provide enough money to pay for our health services for almost a decade. Or we could save £100 million a year by abolishing the House of Lords or £10 million paying for the Scotland Office.

"Getting these decisions right is important. That is why we want to engage in an open conversation with people over how we protect the services that are most important to us. To make sure that every public pound is spent wisely and effectively.

"It's important that together we agree the type of
Scotland we want. The Westminster Government shouldn’t be allowed to get us into this kind of mess again.  Scotland shouldn’t be allowed to become a victim of a crisis over which we have no control.

"As a nation we shouldn’t lose sight of what we have achieved and can achieve. Not only did Scotland go into this recession in a much better condition than the rest of the UK but the recession was shorter and we have also emerged in better shape.

"Yesterday the latest statistics on Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland showed that for the fourth year in a row Scotland has been in surplus. In fact last year Scotland was in surplus by well over a billion pounds compared to a UK deficit of almost £50 billion.

"That shows that we would have been better off taking responsibility for our own decisions. And that is why the Scottish Government wants to see us take more control over our own affairs. Introducing financial responsibility would deliver that.

"It would allow us to take our own decisions on tax - and critically it would allow us to encourage growth, the very thing that Westminster is in danger of suffocating. We saw that with the Budget decision to stop tax breaks for the computer games industry, a great Scottish success story. That doesn’t mean that we won’t face tough decisions – just that we will have more control over our own affairs and can stop this situation from happening again.

"Scotland has massive resources and fantastic public services. We are committed to Scotland’s public services and delivering the best deal for each and every pound of spending.

"We face an unprecedented challenge. All of us must play a role and work together in the best interests of our country. You can be assured that your Scottish government will work with you to protect the values of our society, our services and our economy - the things that matter to us all."

SNP WARN OVER COALITION POSTAL PRIVATISTION PLAN


SNP WARN OVER COALITION POSTAL PRIVATISTION PLAN

SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson Mike Weir MP has condemned the
coalition government’s rush to privatise postal services as the ‘wrong
policy at the worst possible time’.

In a written statement today (Thursday) Liberal Democrat Minister Ed
Davey indicated he was seeking an update of the Hooper report on
Postal Services. Mr Weir who gave both verbal and written evidence to
the original Hooper inquiry condemned the move.

Mr Weir said:

“Having campaigned to protect postal services before the election, we
now have Liberal Democrats in government rushing to implement policies
that will have a damaging effect on rural Scotland.

“The part privatisation of Royal Mail will inevitably lead to pressure
on the universal service obligation which is so important to rural
communities, many of which already have a reduced service.

“The previous Labour government had to withdraw similar proposals
under public pressure, but the new coalition are clearly determined to
resuscitate the privatisation plan.

“There is no logic behind these proposals. Royal Mail cannot be viewed
as just another company. It provides an essential public service,
especially to smaller communities and small businesses who do not have
access to alternative carriers.

“This is the wrong policy being put in place at the worst possible time.”

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

PM PRESSED ON £26M NHS VAT BILL


PM PRESSED ON £26M NHS VAT BILL

The Prime Minister faced calls today (Wednesday) to cover the £26m
additional tax burden faced by NHS in Scotland as a result of the
increase in VAT – a tax bill which undermines claims by the coalition
government that frontline health spending is protected.

Speaking after the exchange at Prime Ministers Questions, SNP
Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said:

“NHS budgets should be spent on frontline health services, not clawed
back by the Treasury through VAT. £26million is an significant chunk
of Health Board budgets and this tax burden will take money away from
where it is needed.

“With resources getting tighter in coming years, increasing taxes paid
by the NHS and other public bodies to the Treasury is ridiculous, and
totally exposes claims by the coalition that health spending will be
protected. The Liberal Democrats went into the election opposed to
increasing VAT, and now they are thumping the NHS with an additional
tax burden.

“It may be less than the £36million Labour planned to take from the
NHS in National Insurance, but it is still an unacceptable cost at a
difficult time.

“The SNP Government is doing everything in its power to protect
frontline public services and NHS jobs and the Treasury must take
action to protect NHS budgets from the additional tax burden.”

SNP SLAM MILIBAND FOR LETTING TORIES INTO GOVERNMENT


SNP SLAM MILIBAND FOR LETTING TORIES INTO GOVERNMENT
 
SHOWS LABOUR CAN'T BE TRUSTED TO STOP THE TORIES

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson has slammed Labour leadership contender David Miliband for letting the Tories into government by scuppering the possibility of a progressive alliance.

Former LibDem leader Paddy Ashdown revealed how Mr Miliband refused to take part in any of the negotiations which might have made a progressive alliance government possible.

Lord Ashdown said:

"If there is a single person who is responsible for the fact that the possibility, slim though it was, of a Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition was killed it is David Miliband."

Commenting Mr Gibson said:

“Yet again we see how Scots can’t trust Labour to stop the Tories. 

"It seems Scottish Labour MPs, backing David Milliband, like Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander were happy to see Mr Milliband's career prospects put before their promise to protect Scotland from the Tories.

“Throughout the election campaign Labour candidates were telling Scots that only they could stop the Tories. However once they were safely elected many of their MPs - particularly in Scotland - were happy to rush for the comfort of opposition and just let the Tories waltz back in the door to 10 Downing Street.

"This revelation about David Miliband also raises questions about Jim Murphy's role in scuppering the chances of a progressive alliance government. His childish knee jerk rejections of SNP support now take on a new meaning in light of Lord Ashdown's comments. This must place a question mark over David Miliband's chances of becoming Labour leader.

“The fact is that the outcome of this UK election was not inevitable. There was a progressive, anti-Tory alternative on offer but a number of Labour MPs sought the comfort of the back benches.

“Labour let the people of Scotland down. They promised to protect Scotland from the Tories - instead they undermined Gordon Brown and opened the door to a Tory government in Scotland.”

GERS REPORT PROVES STRENGTH OF SCOTLAND’S FINANCES

 
GERS REPORT PROVES STRENGTH OF SCOTLAND’S FINANCES
 
SCOTTISH SURPLUS VERSUS HUGE UK DEFICIT
 
NEED FOR FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY MORE PRESSING THAN EVER
 
Today’s publication of the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report for 2008/09 not only fatally undermine the scaremongering by the London parties about Scottish independence but also makes the case that Scotland should have financial responsibility – particularly with Tory cuts threatening Scottish growth – says SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee.
 
Today’s report shows that Scotland’s public finances are in a very healthy position, and generate far more income than we spend - even in a period of recession and including a share of the UK Government’s Financial Sector Interventions to support the banking sector.
 
They show that Scotland’s financial position in 2008/09 was a current budget surplus of £1.3 billion, or 0.9% of GDP, including a geographical share of North Sea revenues.  At the same time, the UK was in current budget deficit of £48.9 billion, or 3.4% of GDP, including 100% of North Sea revenues.
 
The cumulative value of Scotland’s current budget surplus over the four year period from 2005/06 to 2008/09 now stands at some £3.5 billion.  Over this same period, the UK built up a deficit of £72.3 billion.
 
Commenting on today’s report Linda Fabiani
 
Ms Fabiani said:
 
“These are the strongest GERS figures ever published – it is game, set and match for the case for Scotland to be responsible for our own resources.  
 
“Today’s statistics make the case for Scotland to achieve financial responsibility. With the Tory/LibDem budget threatening Scottish growth and the Labour party unable to protect Scotland – having created the mess in the first place – only financial responsibility for Scotland can help Scotland’s economy grow more strongly and build recovery.
 
Coming the day after a budget in which Scotland has been dealt a share of the pain for the UK's debts these figures show Scotland's potential if we were in charge of our own resources.
 
“Today’s statistics also fatally undermine all the scaremongering from the London parties. Whilst they have been talking down Scotland – and running the economy down – the statistics demonstrate beyond doubt that Scotland has built up a surplus of 3.5 billion over a four year period, while the UK as a whole racked up a deficit of £72.3 billion.
 
“The GERS report conclusively proves that the flow of resources in the UK is from north to south – not south to north.
 
"The Calman proposals have been overtaken politically and economically and it is time to move on to real financial responsibility for the Scottish Parliament and a referendum on independence."

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

FUEL ACTION MUST NOT BE DELAYED


FUEL ACTION MUST NOT BE DELAYED

SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson, Angus MacNeil MP, today
(Tuesday) warned that action to stabilise fuel prices and introduce a
fuel rebate for remote rural areas must not be delayed by the
Treasury. Mr MacNeil said that a pilot scheme was unnecessary as it
already operated in a number of EU locations and it was about time the
UK government recognised that areas like the Western Isles needed a
rebate.

Mr MacNeil said:

“We need action on fuel prices immediately not more Treasury
consultations and delays. We had that with Labour and it appears we
are getting it again from the Tory/LibDem pact.

“Other countries already operate derogations successfully and there is
absolutely no reason why the Treasury cannot implement a similar
system in Scotland as well. The Western Isles is already crying out
for such a scheme so there is no reason for more prevarication.

“Motorists in the Hebrideans are paying more tax than anyone else in
the UK for fuel, and I have already suggested to the Chief Secretary
to the Treasury that the Western Isles would be the perfect pilot area
for such a scheme.

“The Chancellor must stand and deliver on fair fuel prices and put an
end to Labour’s highway robbery.”

CHALLENGE ON ALCOHOL AFTER CIDER TAX DITCHED


CHALLENGE ON ALCOHOL AFTER CIDER TAX DITCHED
TIME TO BACK MINIMUM PRICING
The SNP have today challenged the Conservatives and Labour in Holyrood over their position on alcohol after the Tory Chancellor dropped changes to cider tax – previously hailed by Scottish Tories and Labour as evidence that tax should be used to tackle problem drinking not minimum pricing.
In recent debates on alcohol the Conservatives urged the SNP to wait for the budget to see real action on alcohol, while Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie insisted taxation through the budget was the best way to address the problem.
SNP MSP and former GP Dr Ian McKee said:
“The Tories urged the SNP Government to wait and see how they would tackle problem alcoholic drinks in the budget – but there was nothing to see.  No action was taken on alcohol at all, except to drop duty on cider.
“Labour said tax was the way forward, but they have today learnt the lesson that taxation on alcohol is a political tool not a policy solution.
“They said minimum pricing would be overtaken by events – yet it seems it is the Tories and Labour who have been left behind.
“The Tories and Labour must now accept that minimum pricing is the only way to tackle the pricing problems surrounding alcohol consumption and having been humiliated by George Osborne the Scottish Tories must now change their mind.
“Not a penny has been added to problem drinks, no action has been taken to rebalance alcohol taxation and the one rise that was planned  has been dropped as the result of an election promise to a key constituency.
“This shows the folly of basing action on alcohol on the tax system.  Instead of a solid base on which to target problem drinks the use of VAT and duty simply makes alcohol taxation a political tool.”

TORIES FAIL TO INVEST IN GAMES GROWTH INDUSTRY


TORIES FAIL TO INVEST IN GAMES GROWTH INDUSTRY

INDUSTRY COULD HELP SCOTTISH RECOVERY

SNP MSPs have today expressed their anger that the Tory/ Lib Dem budget
did not invest in Scotland’s games industry despite its potential to lead
recovery in key parts of the Scottish economy.

Going directly against claims by the new UK Government that they would
invest in areas that would produce economic growth the Chancellor today
dumped plans to introduce tax relief for the video games industry.

SNP MSP for Dundee West Joe FitzPatrick said:

“Today’s dumping of tax breaks for the games industry is bad news for
computer games companies and the staff they employ across Dundee. There is
a real danger that we will now lose out to countries such as Canada and
France who have boosted their computer games industry by introducing tax
relief.

“We all accept there is a need to get out economy in control, but dropping
of games industry support doesn’t make sense, as any tax relief would be
outweighed by the increased growth in the sector.  A recent report by the
games industry body TIGA has shown that over five years the tax breaks
would cost an estimated £192 million but would deliver £415 million in tax
receipts. The fact that the Chancellor has chosen to ignore this shows
that this vital industry for Dundee and for Scotland is just not important
at Westminster.

“Reports by the Computer games industry show that Dundee could lose 200
jobs over the next 5 years as a result of a failure to implement tax
breaks, whereas introducing tax incentives would create 350 Graduate level
Jobs and £45 million of extra investment in Dundee.

“Both Labour and Tory Chancellors have failed to give the support the
games industry needs.  If Labour had listened to the industry earlier and
introduced this tax properly in previous years the Tories would not have
found it so easy to drop.

“It is clear that when it comes to growing Scotland’s economy it is only
the SNP that has our industry at it’s heart and I will continue to work
with TIGA and others in the industry to put support for growth back on the
agenda.”

SNP MP for Dundee East and Treasury Spokesman Stewart Hosie said:

“This is a Budget bombshell for the computer games industry, which will
undermine jobs and investment in a sector that the Treasury should be
supporting.

“It is a cruel blow coming just months after we secured a commitment by
the last government to deliver a competitive tax incentive. This reversal
will pull the rug from under the games industry and put vital jobs at
risk.”

SNP RESPOND TO EMERGENCY BUDGET


SNP RESPOND TO EMERGENCY BUDGET

Responding to the Emergency Budget delivered by Chancellor George Osborne today (Tuesday), SNP Treasury Spokesman, Stewart Hosie MP, called for a long term responsible approach to growth in Scotland.  

Commenting, Mr Hosie said:

“After 13 years of Labour irresponsibility, there is no doubt that the UK’s finances are in a serious mess.

“Now, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats are embarking on an irresponsible programme of cuts.

“While the Budget contained a number of welcome measures – including consideration of a rural fuel derogation, freezing whisky duty and restoring the link between pensions and earnings – it takes massive amounts of money out of the economy risking a double dip recession.

“What we need now is a responsible approach and a plan which reduces the deficit gradually and generates long term growth.

“The SNP Government has already taken action to make efficiencies and plan for the future with the powers available to it but these powers are limited.

“If the Scottish economy is to grow in the long term, the Scottish Parliament must have the financial levers to make that growth happen. 

"While we must wait till October to see the impact on public spending in Scotland, it is clear that we face deep cuts to Scottish spending and we must all work together, across the country, to ensure we maintain growth against the background of these significant cuts and tax rises.”

WEIR CALLS FOR SUBSIDY ASSURANCE OVER NEW NUCLEAR


WEIR CALLS FOR SUBSIDY ASSURANCE OVER NEW NUCLEAR

Speaking in a Commons debate this morning (Tuesday) on the UK
government’s policy on nuclear energy, SNP Energy and Climate Change
spokesperson Mike Weir MP called on the coalition government to
confirm that there would be no public subsidy for new nuclear stations
– and rule out rumoured plans to fix carbon prices which would amount
to a hidden subsidy for new nuclear stations.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Weir said:

“The coalition is in chaos on new nuclear with the Tories claiming
developments will only go ahead without public subsidy, and the
LibDems opposed to the plans but resigned to abstaining on any vote.
Chris Huhne would be in the position of not voting for a proposal that
his Department has brought forward, which seems bizarre to say the
least.

“The fact is that no country has developed and maintained nuclear
stations without state support, nor ever will. The costs associated
with developing new nuclear stations are mammoth, and the expense and
risks associated with disposal are incalculable.

“If the coalition are serious on the subsidy issue they must abandon
rumoured plans to fix carbon prices which would amount to a hidden
subsidy for new nuclear stations.

“The reality is that the UK Government is bogged down in nuclear
planning issues and making no progress and creating no jobs while, in
contrast, the Scottish Government is getting on with the job of
investing in the technologies of the future, and supporting thousands
of green energy jobs.”

SNP WINS MOD COMMITMENT ON DEFENCE STATISTICS


SNP WINS MOD COMMITMENT ON DEFENCE STATISTICS

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has secured a commitment from the
Ministry of Defence (MOD) to continue producing statistics on
employment and defence spending across the nations and regions of the
UK.

In recent years MOD statistics have confirmed there have been more
than 10,000 defence jobs lost and a massive £5.6 billion defence
underspend in Scotland.

After a series of parliamentary answers showing the defence underspend
in Scotland growing and job losses continuing, the MOD had threatened
to stop providing the statistics.

Westminster SNP Leader and Defence spokesman Angus Robertson said:

“As the Ministry of Defence starts its Strategic Defence and Security
Review it is crucial to be able to track the impact of UK government
policy across the nations and regions of the UK.

“We know from the MOD’s own statistics that Scotland has fared badly
in recent years with more than 10,000 defence job losses and a massive
£5.6 billion underspend.

“With the commitment from Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey to
continue producing these statistics we will be able to track the
impact of government decisions in Scotland and elsewhere.

“The UK government must make a fair and balanced defence footprint
across the UK a priority.”

Monday, 21 June 2010

DEFENCE REVIEW MUST ADDRESS ‘MAMMOTH’ SCOTTISH UNDERSPEND


DEFENCE REVIEW MUST ADDRESS ‘MAMMOTH’ SCOTTISH UNDERSPEND

Speaking in a Commons debate on the strategic defence and security
review SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson, Angus
Robertson MP, has warned over future cuts to the defence footprint in
Scotland.

Highlighting the £5.6bn defence underspend in Scotland and 10,000 job
loses since the last strategic review, Mr Robertson said:

“Scotland has already been massively short-changed on its share of
defence spending and this trend must not continue as the government
embarks on the strategic review.

“To proceed with a strategic review that does not address the mammoth
cutbacks in defence spending we have seen in Scotland over the last
decade risks even more damaging decline for the defence footprint in
Scotland.

“The MoD’s own figures show that £5.6bn less has been spent on defence
in Scotland than has been contributed by taxpayers, and 10,000 defence
jobs have been lost in Scotland since the last strategic review.

“People in Scotland support our armed forces, and are proud of the
nation's military tradition, but those UK politicians responsible for
the decrease in jobs, the overstretch, and the under-equipping of our
brave servicemen must now address this decline.”

Mr Robertson also expressed his dismay that the future of the Trident
nuclear weapons system had been excluded from the strategic defence
and security review.

Mr Robertson added:

“To undertake a strategic review which excludes the hyper-expensive
Trident programme, while considering cuts to conventional, front-line
forces, is a sham exercise. A defence review is essential to
prioritise our defence needs in a changed world, but you cannot have a
meaningful debate about that if you start by excluding the future of
the Trident programme.

“Whatever way you look at it, Trident is morally, economically and
politically untenable – that is why the SNP will continue to fight to
have it scrapped altogether.”

UK GOVERNMENT MAKE SCOTLAND BIG LOTTERY LOSERS


UK GOVERNMENT MAKE SCOTLAND BIG LOTTERY LOSERS

The SNP today (Monday) warned that hundreds of good causes across
Scotland could be stripped of millions in lottery cash as a result of
UK Government plans to cut funding and restrict lottery awards.

Tory and Liberal Democrat plans will result in the Big Lottery Fund
receiving approximately £15 million per annum less in Scotland (at
current ticket sales levels). The change in shares means an overall
net loss for Scotland because the Big Lottery Fund’s share (11.5%) is
Barnett plus weighting for deprivation while sport and arts funds (9%)
is Barnett only. Therefore, decreasing the Big Lottery Funds share and
increasing the other funds will reduce overall income to Scotland.

Further changes, restricting awards to only voluntary and community
sector (VCS) projects, mean that hundreds of non-vcs organisations,
the vast majority of them schools, will miss out on funding.

SNP Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson, Pete Wishart MP, said:

“Scotland will be hit disproportionately by these changes, with
hundreds of good causes set to miss out on millions in lottery awards.

“What is especially distasteful is that these projects are initiatives
like sensory gardens for severely disabled children or training for
those suffering from autism or educational support for pre-school
children.

“A lottery grant has proved to be the winning ticket for many
deserving projects, allowing them to flourish and expand.  Almost all
of this money went to schools through Awards for All.

“The great irony is that, before the election, the Tories claimed they
wanted a lottery independent of the government, but the first thing
they have done is dictate to the Big Lottery fund what they can and
can’t support.”

ROBERTSON COMMENTS AS AFGHAN DEATH TOLL RISES


ROBERTSON COMMENTS AS AFGHAN DEATH TOLL RISES

Commenting as the number of UK service personnel killed as a result of
the Afghanistan conflict since 2001 reached 300, SNP Westminster
leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:

“Each and every one of these deaths is equally painful and this tragic
milestone underlines the incredible dedication and sacrifice of our
forces.

“As people reflect on the human cost of the war in Afghanistan there
are obvious questions which must be addressed by the government about
whether the right strategy is being pursued and is achievable.”

TAVISH CHALLENGED ON COUNCIL TAX FREEZE


TAVISH CHALLENGED ON COUNCIL TAX FREEZE
As the Liberal Democrats appear poised implement a council tax freeze for taxpayers across England SNP MSP Dave Thompson challenged the Scottish Lib Dems to drop their opposition to the fully funded council tax freeze that has supported families through difficult times over recent years in Scotland.
The Lib Dems in Scotland have described continuing with the council tax freeze this current year as "distorted priorities".
Highlands and Islands MSP Dave Thompson said:
"The Council tax freeze has provided real help to many families across Scotland through tough times and by fully funding it local authorities have not lost out on a penny - yet Tavish Scott wanted to put people's taxes up.
"Now his London colleagues - including the new Chief Secretary Danny Alexander - whose constituents know the benfits a council tax freeze can bring and whose own Lib Dem council has received the full funding to implement it - are importing the idea to England will Tavish Scott change his mind?
"With a council tax freeze set to be offered across the UK I will be writing to Tavish Scott for his support in delivering a further year's freeze for Scotland."

LIB DEMS URGED TO ACT ON INTEREST RATES


LIB DEMS URGED TO ACT ON INTEREST RATES
“SCOTTISH SECRETARY MUST STAND UP FOR SCOTLAND"
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands and a Vice-President of the Trading Standards Institute has today, 21st June 2010, written to the new Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP, urging him to ensure the UK Coalition Government delivers on its pledge to tackle extortionate interest rates forced upon many low income borrowers.
Mr Thompson’s call comes in the wake of an OFT report into high cost credit, which stated that the ‘fundamental and longstanding issues’ of high interest rates could only be tackled at Government level.
The UK Coalition Agreement included a commitment to ban excessive interest rates, as did the Liberal Democrats manifesto for the election in May.
In his letter, Mr Thompson drew attention to these commitments as well as highlighting evidence that suggests Scotland has a particularly acute problem with unaffordable consumer debt and high interest rates.
Mr Thompson commented:
“Far too many Scots are being exploited by unscrupulous lenders charging sky high interest rates.  Many low income people cannot access mainstream credit, and so have no choice but to borrow from so called sub prime lenders who think nothing of charging interest rates with treble or even quadruple figures. 
"This problem exists across the UK, but there is evidence that Scots have higher levels of unsecured borrowing and are more vulnerable to excessive interest rates.  It is therefore incumbent on Michael Moore to use his key position to stand up for Scotland and push for the speedy implementation of the Coalition's promise to ban these sky high interest rates.
"To their shame, the previous Labour UK administration refused to take action to protect low income people from irresponsible lending, despite countries across Europe from France to Germany using a limit for interest rate charges.
"The new UK Coalition Government have made welcome statements and commitments to tackling this issue – but they will be judged by deeds, not words, and must act on their pledge.
"Michael Moore has the opportunity to use his office to make a real difference to the many Scots suffering in the face of extortionate interest rates and work with his colleagues in the Treasury to take immediate and decisive action.

TREASURY WARNED OVER AIR TAX CHANGES


TREASURY WARNED OVER AIR TAX CHANGES

BUDGET SHAKE-UP WOULD BE HIGHLAND’S HAMMER BLOW

DANNY ALEXANDER REMINDED OF PREVIOUS OPPOSITION TO PLAN

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Budget, Western Isles SNP MP Angus
MacNeil has called for assurances that the Highlands and Islands will
not lose existing air tax concessions as a result of Treasury plans to
replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) with a “per plane” tax.

Under current tax rules, passengers departing from Highlands and
Islands airports, and those flying on any service operated by aircraft
with less than 20 seats or 10 tonnes maximum take-off weight are
exempt from APD.

Mr MacNeil has written to both the Chancellor and Chief Secretary to
the Treasury warning that, without appropriate exemptions, a “per
plane” tax could threaten air services for passengers in the Highlands
and Islands.

Mr MacNeil also reminded the Treasury Secretary, Danny Alexander, a
fellow Highlands MP, of comments he made in 2007 about previous plans
to replace APD with a “per plane” tax. Speaking in October 2007, Mr
Alexander said: "The possible removal of this exemption would be a
serious blow to the Highland economy. It would be a reversal of the
government's recognition that these Highlands and islands services are
lifeline services and on that basis merit a different treatment."

Mr MacNeil said:

“To lose this exemption would be a hammer blow to the Highlands and
Islands economy, and the Treasury must ensure that equivalent air tax
concessions are continued.

“Scottish air services would be disproportionately affected by this
change, and it would undoubtedly result in a reduction in the
frequency lifeline flights as airlines maximise seat occupancy. This
change may also apply to cargo flights, and that would clearly also
raise questions over the frequency of flights transporting essential
provisions and mail deliveries to our remote communities

“Danny Alexander, as a fellow Highlands MP, clearly understands the
situation, and I am encouraged that he has spoken out against this
threat previously. Now that he is in the Treasury he must ensure that
the current exemptions are not withdrawn, and that future air links to
and from the Highlands and Islands are not threatened.”

Sunday, 20 June 2010

COMMONSENSE MUST PREVAIL AT JOB CENTRE PLUS

 
COMMONSENSE MUST PREVAIL AT JOB CENTRE PLUS
 
MSP for Falkirk West Michael Matheson has today asked Job Centre Plus for a ‘little commonsense’ when it comes to those unable to attend bi-weekly meetings due to serious illness.

The Sunday Post today [Sunday] reported that terminally ill cancers patients across Scotland are being put at risk of having their benefits, which they are fully entitled to, taken away because they are unable to attend meetings at their local jobs centres due to their ill health.

Commenting, Michael Matheson said:

“These are very alarming reports that have emerged today. It is even more concerning that this appears to be common practise across the whole of Scotland and not just an unique case.

“The previous Labour Government had said that serious ill cancer patients were to be exempt from these means tests but sadly that appears not to be case.
 
“A little commonsense would have stopped this absurd and ridiculous practise which has no doubt caused a great deal of worry for those threatened with having their benefits removed, on top of what surely is already a traumatic time for those involved.

“Job Centre Plus must now resolve this as soon as possible and offer an apology to those who have been affected.”