Because everybody loves a good transcript, right?
GLENN CAMPBELL: Jackie Baillie, what is your idea of a fairer welfare system? I mean, what would the top couple of changes that you would want to make to create a fairer system be?
JACKIE BAILLIE: Sure, sure. I think there are discussions ongoing about how we could ensure that the welfare state is, y’know, areas of it devolved in Scotland, where there is an impact on local policy.
But, d’you know, I come to the, the position from saying that it needs to be based on need, not on nationality, not on geography, not on the constitution, but across the United Kingdom, actually dealing with people’s needs. Because for me it’s about people, it’s not about geography, and it’s not about the constitution.
CAMPBELL: But is there something that you would do, if you were in charge tomorrow – either in Scotland or across the UK – what would be the first thing you would do to make the system fairer?
BAILLIE: Sure, well I would certainly, I would deal with the bedroom tax, frankly, um, because I’m very clear that we should scrap the bedroom tax, I’m equally clear that the SNP –
CAMPBELL: Is that now Labour Party policy, both in Scotland and the UK?
BAILLIE: – have the power, have the power, let, let me just say to you, have the power to do something about that now. They can stop evictions, they can put money in place to help housing associations and councils, we’ve heard the most appalling stories over the last week about people threatened with eviction. We cannot –
CAMPBELL: In some cases by Labour local authorities.
BAILLIE: – allow that, well, I have to say, by SNP councils too, you only need to look at Clackmannanshire*. It’s not about scoring points about which local authority did it, it’s about having a consistent position across Scotland, so that we see off this appalling bedroom tax. They can do it now, they have the power to do it, but they absolutely refuse to do so.
CAMPBELL: Where would you and your colleagues find the £50m that your finance spokesperson says would be committed to this were Labour in charge?
BAILLIE: Sure, sure, I mean, we will help the SNP find it, but can I offer –
CAMPBELL: Well, where would it come from?
BAILLIE: – the £10 million for ‘Brave’, okay?
CAMPBELL: That’s been spent!
BAILLIE: Yeah, but that was something, that’s something, that’s about choices, that’s what politics is about. Jamie [Hepburn, SNP] can choose to spend it on a Disney movie, we choose to spend it on taking care of the people of Scotland. That’s what the Scottish Parliament was elected for.
[sits back with inexplicably satisfied smile]
So there you have it. Labour’s top two specific policy commitments on welfare if they were in power tomorrow would be to (1) “ensure that the welfare state is, y’know, areas of it devolved in Scotland, where there is an impact on local policy”, and (2) go back in time and not spend £10m (actually £7m) on the Scottish tourism industry, plus find another £40m from [mumble mumble] to alleviate – not “scrap” – the bedroom tax.
(Baillie seemed very confused on this subject. If you scrap the bedroom tax you don’t need to find £50m to cover arrears caused by its penalties, because there won’t be any. And the Scottish Government does NOT in fact “have the power to” scrap it. She appears to be using the terms “scrap” and “compensate for” interchangeably.)
“I’m not saying that, y’know, we can’t develop our own welfare system, I’m saying we shouldn’t develop our own welfare system.”
She actively opposes Holyrood being given the power to scrap the bedroom tax, but represents a party that still refuses to say it will do so in Westminster. It would appear that whether Labour or the Tories win the next general election, a Scotland that’s still in the UK will be stuck with the bedroom tax either way.
* We’re not entirely sure what Ms Baillie is referring to with this comment. The official policy of the SNP-led Clackmannanshire Council is that it “will use all legitimate means to collect rent due, except eviction“. (Our emphasis.)