Labour's Johann Lamont questions free-for-all policy approach

Johann Lamont said an honest debate was needed

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Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has questioned universal benefits which sees rich people receiving tuition fees and prescriptions for free.

In a speech to party members in Edinburgh she said it was time to end a "something for nothing" culture.

She added that First Minister Alex Salmond was passing the buck to already stretched local governments.

But the nationalists accused Labour of having no policies of its own to bring to the table.

Ms Lamont insisted that the SNP had a vision for Scotland "all on the never never."

She told the gathering: "Alex Salmond says he'll make Scotland a progressive beacon.

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She [Johann Lamont] has, in truth, indicated much of this previously. For example, in a pre-conference webcast with me she caused controversy by pondering aloud whether students/graduates could be permanently protected from making a cash contribution. ”

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"Well, I have to ask what is progressive about a banker on more than 100,000 a year benefiting more than a customer on average incomes from the council tax freeze?

"What is progressive about a chief executive on more than 100,000 a year not paying for his prescriptions, while a pensioner needing care has their care help cut?

"What is progressive about judges and lawyers earning more than 100,000 a year, not paying tuition fees for their child to follow in their footsteps at university, while one in four unemployed young people in Scotland can't get a job or a place at college?"

Ms Lamont said that taxes would have to rise or services would be cut in order to maintain popular but expensive SNP pledges on areas such as the council-tax freeze and personal care for the elderly.

She added: "I believe our resources must go to those in greatest need.

"But if the devil's greatest trick was to convince the world he didn't exist, Salmond's most cynical trick was to make people believe that more was free, when the poorest are paying for the tax breaks for the rich."

SNP Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon said Ms Lamont was embarking on a disastrous approach.

She explained: "Almost one year on from her election as leader and Labour still have no policies of their own to bring to the table.

"At a time when people are facing serious wage restraint and rising living costs, the council-tax freeze, the abolition of charges for prescriptions, support for higher education, apprenticeships and the elderly are all part of the support we in society give to each other."

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