I could not sit down to write my SI article without reflecting on the passing of Brian Adam MSP. I met Brian a number of years ago at the Livingston by-election. Dutifully, trying to raise money for the campaign, I tried to sell him a raffle ticket! A mistake to be made only once in a lifetime.
So it was with some trepidation that as newly elected MSP I was summoned to the Whips Office. Brian immediately put me at my at ease and explained, without a hint of irony, that if I did what I was told, when I was told to do it, he and I would get on fine. The wee Lanarkshire backle in me thought “aye right” but I needn’t have worried. Because in everything that Brian did he conducted himself as gentleman. He was never intrusive but always willing to offer advice and help when consulted. He carried himself with conviction, which was backed up by an incredible political experience and success. When Brian advised about campaigning we listened because his track record was unparalleled in our Party’s history. I did not get to know Brian as well as I would have hoped but in speaking to my colleagues and friends his mentorship and support of the younger MSPs and Party colleagues has been a clear theme.
Humza Yousaf told of his support for him and Bashir Ahmed when he arrived as an inexperienced researcher to the Parliament and Hannah Bardell also found his help and support in running a Constituency Office invaluable when she was tasked with setting up Alex Salmond’s Inverurie Office. And I can only imagine the sorrow felt by those he mentored in Aberdeen, including Kevin Stewart MSP and Mark MacDonald MSP.
The accolades for Brian are innumerable, from all parties and none. He will be sorely missed by me. I will hold him in my heart, along with our many colleagues who are no longer with us, every time I knock a door for Scottish Independence. We are the inheritors of his dedication to the SNP and Independence and in 2014 “a’ the bairns o Adam can find breid, barley-bree and painted room.”
I find myself returning to The Case for Universal Services. I make no apology because almost daily we have further interventions by Politicians in this area. This week saw Ian Duncan Smith ask “rich” pensioners to hand back their winter fuel allowance if they can afford it. I wonder if he will ask the rich to hand back their tax cuts if they can afford that too ? I doubt it because IDS is just undermining Universal Services in principle – it is nothing to do with the finances of our country. Owen Jones in the Independent this week makes this case in his article
“Don’t be fooled: Iain Duncan Smith’s attack on pensioners is really an attack on all of us. This is where the shredding of universalism ends up, promoting poisonous ideas of the ‘undeserving poor’ and the further destruction of Britain’s social cohesion“.
Mr Jones says
“On top of the chaotic withdrawal of child benefit for higher earners, Duncan-Smith’s intervention is with the gradual chipping away of the very foundations of the welfare state. It’s a clever ruse, too. It seems to reverse the positions of left and right. How is it defensible for low-paid workers to cough up to pay for frivolous benefits that multi-millionaires simply do not need? It even taps into widespread discomfort with the very inequality promoted by right-wing policies: why on earth should some of the country’s wealthiest people get free TV licences?”
Owen Jones concludes with
“The universal welfare state is under siege; it needs a confident, coherent defence. Talk of reform must surely centre on the subsidising of bosses and landlords. The case for tax on the basis of wealth and income desperately has to be made. As Britain’s finest Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, put it: “If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.” If Labour fails to do its job and drive the Tory onslaught back, our already deeply fragmented society will face even further social destruction. It must not be allowed to happen.”
Unfortunately I cannot share his optimism that Labour will prevent this onslaught on our welfare system. Not when my local MSP John Pentland states in his column as a Parliamentarian
“Should the richest people get freebies while cancer patients suffer because they cannot afford life-extending but expensive drugs that are not available through the NHS…?.”
This is s spurious argument pitting one vital service against another while the UK government squanders billions on a Trident replacement. Why are Labour making the Tories case, why are they on the same page as the Tories on the issue of universal services? Or are Labour so intertwined in better together that they can’t see the irony in their attack on Universal Services ?It is to Labours shame that they ignore the overwhelming evidence that more equal societies that support universal benefits are more successful at tackling poverty and deprivation.
In the Jimmy Reid Foundation report “The Case for Universalism” they say :
“That this right-wing political philosophy is now redefined as a left-wing philosophy is one of the most corrosive pieces of political drift we have seen in Scotland. Reducing services to the rich is universally recognised as one of the most certain ways to reduce services to the poor – the empirical evidence against the claim that universalism benefits the rich is reinforced again and again throughout this report.
So let us put this clearly; when Nye Bevan said socialism is about priorities that was not for a second a challenge to the principle of universalism. It was a simple statement about the need to engage in a debate about the necessary functional limits of universalism. When Johann Lamont says we live in a “something for nothing society” in which the rich benefit from ‘freebies’ she dismisses the principle of universalism entirely.”
When there is no difference between Unionists Left or Right thank goodness we have a clear choice in Yes or No.