Party Leader Responses - GE2017

We wrote to each of the main party leaders asking them to respond to our five General Election challenges. You can read their responses by clicking on the party name below:

Scottish Conservatives

Scottish Labour

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Green Party

SNP


Scottish Conservatives

No response. 

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Scottish Labour

Support investment in HMRC, oppose office closures to stop tax evasion and avoidance?

Labour is opposed to tax office closures.  A Labour government will invest in HMRC to stop tax evasion and avoidance.

Under the Tories, our tax offices have been under threat, with workers’ jobs deemed surplus to requirements. At the same time, global corporations and some of the wealthiest people in the country are doing all they can to avoid paying their fair share of tax. It is an imbalance which benefits the few, at a cost to the many, and it must end.

Labour’s manifesto makes a clear commitment to give HM Revenue and Customs the resources and skills necessary to clamp down hard on those unscrupulous few individuals and companies who seek to avoid the responsibilities that the rest of us meet.

A Labour government will make the wealthy and big corporations start paying the tax that they owe.

Support civil and public sector workers and work to break the 1% pay cap?

The Labour manifesto makes it perfectly clear Labour will: “End the Public Sector Pay Cap – because public sector workers deserve a pay rise after years of falling wages”.

The global financial crisis was not caused by working people, yet in the UK the Tories’ austerity agenda has gifted tax cuts to the rich and imposed a real terms pay cut on public sector workers.

Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, have it made clear that a Labour government will grow the economy by improving workers’ rights to deliver security and equality at work.

The next Labour government will bring in a 20-point workplace plan which includes guarantees that Labour will:

  • break the 1% pay cap;
  • repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining;
  • abolish employment tribunal fees;
  • Give equalities reps statutory rights, so they have time to protect workers from discrimination.

Support the principle of universal entitlement to welfare paid through taxation and oppose the implementation of welfare cuts and oppose the DWP programme of office closures?

Labour built the welfare state and we will protect it now after years of persecution under the Tories.

Labour will:

  • Scrap the punitive sanctions regime
  • Scrap the “bedroom tax” across the UK
  • Reinstate housing benefit for under- 21s
  • Scrap cuts to Bereavement Support Payment

Labour will reform and redesign Universal Credit, ending six-week delays in payment and abolishing the abhorrent “rape clause”. We will scrap the Conservatives’ punitive sanctions regime and end the privatisation of assessments for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Labour’s investment in the welfare state will be funded through progressive taxation, with higher income tax for the wealthiest five percent and higher corporate tax for big business.

Labour is opposed to the closure of Jobcentres across the UK, many of which have fallen upon Scotland. I personally wrote to the leader of the Scottish Conservatives calling on her to join the opposition to Scottish DWP office closures.  

Campaign for well-funded public services and oppose and reverse privatisation?

A Labour government won’t just campaign for well-funded public services, we will introduce a fair and progressive taxation system to pay for them.

Labour will reverse decades of privatisation because we believe in publicly owned and accountable services, run in the interest of people, not profit. Labour will support the creation of publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives. We will bring our railways back into public ownership, and here in Scotland will continuing to fight against the SNP’s refusal to regulate bus services and bring them into common ownership. Labour will end the privatisation of assessments including for ESA and PIP.

Campaign for a programme of social and economic inclusion and equality for all citizens and against racism, homophobia and sectarianism?

Under the Conservatives, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities are being denied opportunities to flourish and succeed. Labour will take a different approach. In politics, Labour will launch develop a new leadership and training programme for future Black and Asian local government and parliamentary candidates. In the workplace, Labour will introduce equal pay audit requirements on large employers, abolish unfair employment tribunal fees, and create statutory time-off for Equality Representatives in the workplace.

In schools, Labour is fully committed to a strategy for dealing with homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying. We would ensure that all teachers receive initial and ongoing training on the issues students face and that new guidance for relationships and sex education is LGBTI inclusive, with similar training for frontline health and social care workers. 

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Scottish Liberal Democrats

Support investment in HMRC, oppose office closures to stop tax evasion and avoidance?

It remains our ambition to make taxes fairer and simpler, to help those on low and middle incomes, and to ensure that those on the highest incomes and large international companies make a fair contribution.

It is absolutely essential that people pay the tax that is due, complying not only with the letter but also the spirit of the law. Ensuring that HMRC functions effectively and has the resources it needs will underpin this.

That is why we will invest in HMRC to enable them to tackle tax evasion and avoidance, which demonstrates a good return on investment. We will also expand HMRC powers to name and shame taxpayers penalised for tax evasion and for the first time introduce a target for HMRC of reducing the tax as a percentage of receipts, and support it in meeting it.

This builds on the record of Liberal Democrats in government who made 42 changes to close loopholes and deter and prevent tax avoidance. We also invested nearly £1 billion in HMRC to make sure that everyone pays their fair share of tax and increased the number of staff working to tackle tax avoidance by 2,500. In contrast, the Conservatives have since implemented a 42% cut in personal tax staff and described their controversial tax agreement with Google a ‘major success’.

Support civil and public sector workers and work to break the 1% pay cap?

Liberal Democrats will end years of pay restraint for the public sector, lifting the 1% cap. We will uprate wages in line with inflation.

Our commitment will lead to an estimated pay rise of £780 for an average public sector worker by 2021. In contrast, the Conservative’s public sector pay cap combined with the Brexit squeeze will mean years of pitiful increases.

Our pay boost will apply to all public sector workers in Scotland, either directly or through Barnett consequentials which would allow the Scottish Government to raise the pay of all public workers.

Many public services are already struggling to recruit the staff they need. Living standards are falling and public sector workers are going to food banks but Theresa May doesn’t care. If we want strong public services we have to pay workers properly.

We also oppose the SNP’s suffocating, top-down and diktat-heavy approach. Scotland is a rich and diverse country but power has been hoarded in Holyrood. That is why Liberal Democrats support a reform programme that transfers power back to local communities and empowers public sector workers to do their job.

Support the principal of universal entitlement to welfare paid through taxation and oppose the implementation of welfare cuts and oppose the DWP programme of office closures?

Liberal Democrats will work to ensure that the social security system is fair, dignified, accessible and simple to use. Everyone should be treated with the respect they deserve and we reject the idea that people in need of our support are ‘scroungers’.

That is why we will reverse cruel and unnecessary Tory cuts such as the benefits cap and the two child policy with its ‘rape clause’ where a woman has to declare that children are born as a result of rape in order to access tax credits.

Elsewhere, we will take thousands of children out of poverty by letting both parents earn before their Universal Credit is cut. We will scrap the mistrusted Work Capability Assessment and protect pensioners by guaranteeing the Triple Lock, ensuring an extra £772 a year will be paid in pensions by 2021.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have already voted at the Scottish Parliament to express concerns about the impact of the planned closure of up to 23 Jobcentre Plus sites across Scotland. The loss of local knowledge, personal one-to-one advice and wraparound services will hit many of the most deprived communities in our society hard and a rethink is required.

Campaign for well-funded public services and oppose and reverse privatisation?

A vote for the Liberal Democrats can change the direction of our country. We want to give everyone a brighter future where people are decent to each other, as opposed to Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain.

Our avoiding the Tories’ hard Brexit will put the public finances in better shape. Liberal Democrats won’t risk the long-term future of our economy by limiting vital spending on infrastructure either.

We will provide much-needed investment in people, services, innovation and infrastructure. Serious new investment in the UK economy will ensure that it is flexible, adaptable and competitive.

This election is an opportunity to reset the SNP Government’s priorities too. Their obsession with independence has taken its toll. It’s time it abandoned its divisive agenda and focused on improving our public services, making education the best again and delivering a step change in mental health.

The SNP’s obsession with independence has caused it to be timid on tax, hurting our public services. That is why Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for a Penny for Education, securing a transformative £500 million investment for education. This would be used to secure the expansion of early education, support the establishment of a properly funded pupil premium to lift attainment in every classroom and repair our colleges, giving everybody the chance to learn again.

Campaign for a programme of social and economic inclusion and equality for all citizens and against racism, homophobia and sectarianism?

Liberal Democrats believe that every person is entitled to the same opportunity to succeed in life. That means breaking down the barriers that hold people back, reducing inequality and fighting discrimination.

We will promote universal liberal values like openness, tolerance, and unity, opposing the extreme and divisive forces that now blight our politics and public life. We will fight to make sure that what you do and where you get to in life are not affected by your gender, the colour of your skin, or who you love.

The range of actions set out in the Liberal Democrat manifesto include:

  • Ensure that Brexit negotiations don’t destroy or dilute hard-fought protections;
  • Defend the Human Rights Act and oppose withdrawal from the European Convention;
  • Extend diversity in public life and business, from extending early education provision to strengthening the Equality Act and new transparency requirements;
  • Campaign to reduce intolerance;
  • Guarantee religious freedoms;
  • Offer safe and legal routes to the UK for refugees, offering sanctuary to 50,000 vulnerable Syrians and unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.

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Scottish Green Party

Support investment in HMRC, oppose office closures to stop tax evasion and avoidance?

The Scottish Greens are committed to taking action to limit tax evasion and avoidance. We support investment in HMRC whose skilled employees play an important role in safeguarding our tax system and are opposed to proposed HMRC office closures. In October 2016, my colleague Alison Johnstone MSP spoke in a debate about the proposal to close HMRC’s Bathgate office, relocating workers to Edinburgh. Alison raised the need to move away from decisions to centralise offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh, which can lead to time-consuming commutes for many employees and the risk of losing many skilled expert employees. Alison also recognised the immense stress that such proposals put staff under and I’d like to reaffirm our support of staff facing insecurity.

Support civil and public sector workers and work to break the 1% pay cap?

Our public sector workers did not cause the 2008 financial crisis but, almost ten years later, they are still shouldering the burden of cost cuts. The continuing freeze on public sector pay must be recognised as having a negative impact on staff morale and retention across the NHS, care services, education and other parts of the public sector.

Scottish Greens believe we must restore the value of pay for our public sector workers and that staff in all roles are deserving of fair pay. Recently in the Scottish Parliament, my colleague Alison Johnstone MSP spoke about the need for a fair pay deal for our public sector workforce, in particular NHS staff, and you can read her contribution here. If elected to Westminster,I will continue to fight for our public sector workers and remain committed to supporting the work of trade unions to deliver fair pay and conditions for workers.

Support the principal of universal entitlement to welfare paid through taxation and oppose the implementation of welfare cuts and oppose the DWP programme of office closures?

Our welfare system must be protected from further cuts and reforms and universal entitlement to welfare is a fundamental principle of the Scottish Green Party. We have for many years supported the trial of a Universal Basic Income (which we have referred to in the past as a Citizen’s Income) where everyone is paid a basic amount of money to help them meet the costs of living and provide long-term security.

Our MSPs in Scottish Parliament have voiced their opposition to the planned closures to DWP offices across Scotland. Ross Greer MSP for the West of Scotland lodged a Parliamentary motion objecting to the closures and invited the UK Government Minister for the Department for Work and Pensions to join him on a walk to the nearest jobcentre in his constituency to see for himself the impact closures would have.

A Scottish Green MP in Westminster would fight for our welfare system.

Campaign for well-funded public services and oppose and reverse privatisation?

Our public services are vital and must be fairly funded through progressive taxation. Scottish Greens successfully secured £160m additional funding for public services during budget negotiations with the Scottish Government earlier this year. That’s money that local authorities can directly invest into our buses, schools and social care services. By sending a Green voice to Westminster we will continue look to engage constructively to secure continued funding for our public services.

Scottish Greens will also campaign to keep the NHS free at the point of use and oppose any moves to privatise our healthcare. We will continue to campaign to bring our railways back into public hands.

Campaign for a programme of social and economic inclusion and equality or all citizens and against racism, homophobia and sectarianism?

As mentioned above, our policy for a Universal Basic income would provide security and economic inclusion for all. Scottish Greens also support ending business support for companies that engage in zero hours contracts and do not pay the Living Wage. The rise of the gig economy across the UK is making it more urgent than ever that we put in place stronger protections for workers.

The Scottish Green Party stands for zero tolerance against all forms of discrimination and recognises that more needs to be done to fight inequality. We support comprehensive action to support LGBTI+ people and have backed the Time for Inclusion campaign to make sure schools are inclusive of LGBTI+ young people. We also back the Women 50:50 campaign to ensure equal representation of women on public boards. We recognise that racial discrimination remains a crucial issue in Scotland and the rest of the UK, both for UK-born individuals and our refugee and migrant communities. Sending a Green MP to Westminster will there is a strong voice to promote equality across our society. 

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SNP

Support investment in HMRC, oppose office closures to stop tax evasion and avoidance?

SNP MPs will back improvements to tax collection and tougher action on tax avoidance, including a moratorium and review of the closure of HMRC offices in Scotland and across the UK. We will call for beneficial ownership of companies and trusts to be made public, as well as measures to improve the transparency of tax paid by major international companies. We will continue to press the UK government to take further action to tackle international tax avoidance.

Support civil and public sector workers and work to break the 1% pay cap?

At a time of rising inflation, public sector pay caps become increasingly unsustainable. For next year and in future years, we will not assume a 1 per cent cap. 

For the NHS, the SNP Scottish Government will work with the independent pay review body on the impact of pay restraint and ask it to make fair recommendations. We will implement the recommendations of the pay review body in full.  For the wider public sector, we will enter into negotiations for next year’s pay settlement with a view to agreeing a fair outcome that takes into account of both the public finances and the cost of living.

Support the principal of universal entitlement to welfare paid through taxation and oppose the implementation of welfare cuts and oppose the DWP programme of office closures?

The SNP will fight to end the appalling Tory welfare policies that are punishing the most vulnerable in society – including pensioners, the disabled, vulnerable young adults, and even the bereaved. We will demand that the UK government calls a halt to the cuts that are damaging lives, including ending the benefits freeze and restoring the uprating of benefits by inflation, and we will seek new powers for the Scottish Parliament so we are better able to protect our communities.

SNP MPs will urge the UK government to abandon their planned closures and work with the Scottish Government to bring forward proposals for joint governance of Jobcentres with the Scottish Government, as recommended by the Smith Commission.

Campaign for well-funded public services and oppose and reverse privatisation?

SNP MPs will demand an end to austerity. We believe UK government’s public spending plans are driven more by ideology and their own political interests than the interests of the country. They intend to build up a financial war-chest ahead of the next election – and they will do it on the back of the poorest in society by slashing welfare. This is neither morally acceptable nor economically necessary. We will propose an alternative plan that releases up to £128 billion over the life of the parliament. This allows for a massive investment in public services including £30 billion for the NHS. And, SNP MPs will always vote against any further privatisation of the NHS in England and back any moves to restore it to a fully public service.

Campaign for a programme of social and economic inclusion and equality or all citizens and against racism, homophobia and sectarianism?

Inclusion is the guiding principle for everything we do. Our economic strategy has twin goals of increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality – we believe that one cannot be achieved without the other.

The SNP is committed to tackling the challenges of racism and discrimination in society. We will press for strengthened provisions relating to Equality Impact Assessments to ensure that legislation is sensitive to the interests of minority communities.

SNP MPs will continue to demand full devolution of equality law to the Scottish Parliament. Until that happens we will seek reforms to ensure same-sex couples have equal pension rights and protected characteristics are expanded to ensure all LGBTI people are fully protected from discrimination and harassment.

We have invested almost £13 million to tackle sectarianism, including £9.7 million directly invested in community-based projects across Scotland. We are also working on the development of a national resource, from the work of the community based projects, for schools and practitioners to tackle sectarianism and discrimination as part of the curriculum.

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