Alex Salmond is 'dishonest on independence', says Johann Lamont

 

Alex Salmond is not being honest with the Scottish people about the consequences of independence, Labour's leader north of the border said today.

Johann Lamont claimed the Scottish National Party was avoiding the "tough questions" on independence, telling delegates at the Labour Party conference in Manchester there was a need for an "honest debate" about breaking away from the United Kingdom.

She also hit back at claims by the SNP that she was a poster girl for the Conservatives, after she questioned whether Mr Salmond's spending plans were affordable.

Ms Lamont said: "The SNP might not have the courage to be straight with the Scottish people but we do.

"What Alex Salmond is doing with Scotland's finances is the equivalent of putting the gas bill in the drawer.

"We've all done it - not opened the bill because we feared the consequences. So we stuff it away. And the reminder. And the final notice. But we all know that never ends well.

"Salmond hopes we won't ask the tough questions about independence and he is desperate we don't ask the tough questions of the here and now.

"He knows that every Scottish family is bearing the cost of his slogans. We all know that his budget will go bust.

"But he hopes that somehow he can keep the truth from the Scottish people until after the referendum.

"I won't wait until after the referendum to be honest with the people of Scotland. We need an honest debate now about how we protect the most vulnerable from the cuts. Not everyone is going to like the solutions - that is unavoidable.

"But I will be straight with people now about what is to come, and I will be true to Labour values - that we will not allow those who most need our support to pay the price for populist slogans."

The Scottish Labour leader has rejected claims that she is a Tory for questioning universal benefits such as free NHS prescriptions.

Last week, Ms Lamont faced sustained criticism from her Holyrood opponents for casting into doubt popular but expensive Scottish Government policies which also include free university tuition and a council tax freeze. The SNP branded her the poster girl for the Conservatives after she called for an end to a "something-for-nothing" culture, arguing that taxes will have to rise or services will be cut.

Yesterday she hinted that taxes could go up once Holyrood gets new financial responsibilities through the Scotland Act in 2016, assuming a No vote is returned in the 2014 independence referendum and Labour is returned to power.

The Act, which became law earlier this year, provides for the income tax rate in Scotland to be reduced by 10%, with the Scottish Parliament then responsible to bring it back up or make variations.

But Ms Lamont, making the first speech to the UK party conference as an overall leader for Scottish Labour, vehemently denied the charge she was a Conservative stooge.

She said: "The people of Scotland know that nothing is free. And every day we see more clearly that the costs of Salmond's slogans are being borne by hard-working families struggling to make ends meet, borne by the elderly and vulnerable seeing their care slashed, borne by the student who can't get a place in further education.

"Now last week, when I pointed out that Scotland's families are paying for Salmond's unsustainable tax break for the rich, I was accused of being a Tory.

"I'm not sure if the cap fits with someone who campaigned against Thatcher's cuts to Scotland in the Eighties.

"Not sure the cap fits with someone who campaigned for a Scottish Parliament to protect Scotland from future Tory governments.

"And I am not sure the cap fits with someone who sees in surgeries, in meetings and in everyday life the consequences of a Tory Government cutting too far and too fast while we have an SNP Government content to amplify the cuts rather than protect people from them."

But SNP MSP Mark McDonald said: "The problem for Johann Lamont is that the Tory cap fits her very well."

She has been "praised to the skies by the Tories in Scotland and even by Tories in Wales", he said.

"It may be excruciatingly embarrassing for Johann Lamont but her speech was immediately welcomed by the Welsh Tories who tweeted 'Well said Johann Lamont'.

"In threatening to cut public services invested in by the SNP Government such as free personal care, reintroduce prescription charges on the sick and impose tuition fees, Ms Lamont has become the Tories' poster girl in Scotland, Wales and no doubt England too."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore