Thursday 23 January 2014


I was happy, no, I was delighted, to see that Iain Gray and John Swinney have pledged to work together to rid Scotland of the unfair bedroom tax.
I thought Iain Gray made a good speech in the chamber last night. He said:

“Mr Swinney was courteous enough to invite us to meet him to discuss the budget and we were clear that we want to see that change. He agreed to work with us to find a legal way to do it, and those meetings have started. I believe that they have been constructive and I hope that he does, too. I want them to bear fruit. We can set our differences aside and do this thing on which we agree.

“On that basis, we are willing to support the budget bill this evening, in spite of the weaknesses that we believe it embodies, so that it can come back at stage 3 enhanced by measures and funds that in effect consign the bedroom tax to history in Scotland right here and right now."

Mr Swinney replied:

“The crucial test is whether we can get the money to the individuals to remove the arrears that they face. The guidance from the DWP, which is consistent with the Discretionary Housing Payment (Grants) Order 2001, states that there is a limit on that.
 “I want to continue discussions with the Labour Party about the pursuit of the practical options…it is crucial that we find a way of tackling the hardship that individuals are experiencing, and doing so in a fair and effective way that meets their needs and helps us to deal with the iniquity that is a product of the bedroom tax in this country."

Until there is sufficient housing of the right size to go around, it is quite simply wicked to make people pay for an extra bedroom that they don't need, and in many cases do not want. 

Nor is it reasonable that people who have a medical or social need for a extra bedroom be penalised for their illness. The DWP has to understand that not everyone is capable of sleeping in a bedroom with someone else, in particular as they get older and sleep badly, or need to rise often in the night.

This is a stupid and cruel tax introduced by a stupid and cruel secretary of state. 

I think it unlikely that Iain Duncan Smith, buoyed by yesterdays remarkable, and welcome, announcement of a record reduction in unemployment [which is, in all likelihood, nothing to do with his department, and much more likely to be attributable to an improvement in the economy of the West], will ever agree to repeal the tax.

We, in Scotland, must then work together to do so.

The Scotsman jumped immediately on the SNP's assertions that the only way to bin this tax was independence.
It may be that they will turn out to be right about that, but I would have thought that they should remember that at this stage all that is happening is the two major parties are joining forces against the London government to see if they can find a LEGAL way around the problem (as opposed to Jackie Baillie's illegal solution, and John Swinney's use of the maximum amount of relief apparently allowed under UK law). It is yet to be proved that there actually is a solution within the UK.

Secondly, they should be aware that an independent Scotland would never have imposed a tax like this to begin with, as at least in the foreseeable future, there is little likelihood of there being a Tory government in Scotland.

Regular readers will know that I don't have a particularly high opinion of Iain Gray, but in this case I'm happy to congratulate him on a sensible move.


  1. Common sense tells me that Labour will have another agenda here?
    As we know they would disagree with the SNP at 1000 in the morning if the latter said it was daylight.

    1. Ha ha ...I'm trying to be positive.

      Naturally, if they can, together, find a way of doing this legally, then they will be able to say that we don’t need independence to achieve fairness and decency.

      It can be managed even in the UK.

      However, I guess what we have to remind them is that out of the smaller and smaller block grant which the English are obliged to give us, there is only so much we can do.

      If we have to spend the entire block grant trying to stave off the effects of a government of unpleasant toffs who've never wanted for anything in their lives, there will be no money left for building roads, hospital and schools, and all the other things that we need to do.

      The unionist parties say that we spend a lot of time on the constitutional issue. But here we have two parties and presumably a civil service wasting time and money trying to work out how to subvert London law.

      If we had our own ‘social security law, we wouldn’t need to worry about this.

      And we would have more money to spend as our unemployment is lower than UK unemployment, and our housing benefit is lower than UK housing benefit

  2. Jackie Baillie's Baldrickian Plan ... and the big lie it contains.

    You do not have to be much of a thinker to work out this bill of Ms Baillie's is a piece of political shenanigans which is unsustainable in the long term because it neither deals with the problem (rental arrears) or the cause (under occupancy penalty) or the long term implications on availability of rental housing other than current council funded schemes.

    Trust Labour at your peril.

    1. Absolutely. Ms Baillie's plan was just plain silly.

      Neither do I believe that London Labour would get rid of this if they were to be elected.

      It took them forever to say that they would, and Ed Balls initially said that they would have to wait and see, as did Margaret Curren (I think).

      Eventually after they had been embarrassed by Baillie and Sarwar committing them to it, they had to say they would do it.

      But what's the betting that it's one of these... "Well, we would like to do it, but the Tories have left us in such a mess that we simply don't have the money" situations?

      We need to build many more council houses. They need to be of a suitable size for the people who might want to occupy them... there are a lot of single people looking for property and far too few single bedroom flats.

      We need to be aware of the fact that sometimes couples need to have a bedroom of their own, for a wide variety of reasons.

      We need to understand that when people have health problems, they may need a room for medical equipment, or simply have to have their own room because of their illness.

      We can't go on for ever excusing people rent arrears. it's pretty unfair on people who are in arrears for other reasons than extra bedrooms.

      No CH... I don't trust them. I don't trust many politicians, and I certainly don't trust parties.

      But whatever the motives behind this, if it stops old sick folk being put out on the street, it has to be a good thing. Albeit a temporary measure.

  3. Just imagine where we could go if, the Holyrood parties, all pulled in the same direction. Its such a pity and more to the point a smear on the Holyroods unionist parties, that they've spend the best part of two years denouncing the SNP instead of serving the people of Scotlands needs, who when all is said and done, pay their very generous wages.

    After watching FMQ's today, I see normal hostilities have well and truly been resumed, the consequences of this action, is a lack of service to the Scottish public, at least the SNP produce good policies amongst the bickering, something that can't be said of the unionist parties.

    1. The standard of debate is very poor.

      The opposition for the sake of opposition is sickening. The lies are sickening. And the standard of performance is pretty damned awful.

      If all parties worked for the benefit of the people and the country then of course things would be better...

      To be fair though, there must be at least some of the unionists who genuinely believe that the country is better served by being a part of England. So maybe they think they are doing just that!

      A lot of them are simply ambitious to be something in London. To send ships off to war; to walk out into the Rose Garden with Pr Obama or sit in one of these marbled halls with the King of Saudi Arabia.

      It's a pity that they weren't more concerned with the people who voted for them and less concerned about their place in history.

  4. umm good to see the snp acting or so we hope in the best interests
    of all scots and not just the snp supporters.
    Obviously this also reveals ta ra !!!!! how we already have powers
    under the present constitutional settlement which can be used
    a fact the snp have unpatrioticly obfuscated.


    we need to have properly regulated minimum living space
    requirements with rent controls and tenancy guarantees.

    1. Niko...let's see if there is a legal way of doing it before we get too sure.

      If we break the law daddy England will take our powers away adn only let us play with the building bricks.

      I agree with your need list.

      But with the Tories in charge, or London Labour, we aren't going to get them. Too many of their friends bought up loads of slum flats to let out including ex council flats

  5. Have not seen today's FMQ but I suspect it was the same anti-SNP. i..e. anti-Salmond tirade! Not one original thought as to what would benefit Scotland but the tired old manta - thanks Spooky - of how pathetic the SNP government is but not one singular suggestion as to a better alternative, One would think that JOJO would come up with something original on behalf of her constituents and on behalf of the Labour party in general but the only aim seems to be to denigrate the SNP at every opportunity..

    to my mind what we really need is for someone of courage and stature like Malcolm Chisholm or Murdo Fraser to break ranks and say that independence under which-ever banner is the only way to change things for the benefit of our country.

    You could be sure that either of the two would bring positive votes between them.

    1. Yes, we could do with some people who were thinking for themselves instead of listening to Spiv and Spiv and hoping that there will be a political honour in tit for them.

      Did you notice that that creep brought back political honours. Knighthoods for fiddling expenses... and creeping up Dave's backside.

  6. It's not a tax, it's a benefit reduction. I suppose the shortfall will come out of the Barnett formula for you though...

    1. It might be a reasonable benefits reduction if

      (a) there were smaller houses into which the chronically poor could be put;

      (b) they excluded people who needed somewhere to put their kidney dialysis machines, or their hoists to get them out of bed, or whatever


      (c) they made allowance for older people who have sleep disorders and can't share bedrooms with their partners. Some of these houses the rooms are too small for two single beds.

      The barnett Formula reflects the fact that it is more expensive per head to provide services for fewer people over larger areas. Exactly the same formula is used to provide finance for English local authorities.

      Rural authorities get more per head of a grant than urban ones.

      Scotland's tax take is higher and the social security bill is far lower, mainly because the rents (and therefore rent allowances/rebates) are far far lower than the English equivalent.

      Additionally Scottish tax take is higher per head by a very long way.

  7. Sorry, the last paragraph was for another forum.. Chan'eil mi glic!!

  8. brownlie and the other whiny snp malcontents

    ' Have not seen today's FMQ '

    Pure dead brill and then he gives but then proceeds to
    slag off all and sundry meanwhile praise the erse off the snp.

    ya gotta laff snp good everyone else bad without even
    listening or watching the nat mind a wonder to behold

    1. Did you see it?

      I did and it looks like Mr Brownlie got it spot on.

      Aren't you embarrassed to be on the same side as that Lamont woman?

    2. Listen Niko... you behave or I'll lock you up for a whole weekend with Jackie Baillie.

      Barney...nothing, nothing at all embarrasses Niko. The only person who can deal effectively with him is Spook!

      He is frightened of John Brownlie though...

    3. tris

      well yeah !!

    4. Indeed Niko. :)

  9. Why do Shadow Ministers at Holyrood seem to be at variance on party policy in the run up to the Referendum?

    I'd always thought that Members of a political party were supposed to provide a united front to the voters?

    Instead it appears everyone can do what comes up their humph to suit anything that might crop up from day to day. Baillie and Gray being two examples.

    Is it that they want to "cover all the bases" and be all things to all the voters?

    An excellent political philosophy if you can get away with it. I'm sure there will be a few journalists in the Scottish MSM keen to point this out.

    1. I wonder if it's just that there is a lack of leadership.

      Lamont is nominally in charge, but all the being in charge is delegated upwards to Ed Miliband.

      Baillie and Sarwar promised that a future Labour government would get rid of this tax and Balls and whoever their DWP spokesman at the time said they probably wouldn't.

      In the they must ahve decided that, in Scotland it was an embarrassment that the SNP wanted rid of it and Labour didn't.

      So Balls agreed to find the money, but then when there was s debate on it half of them didn't bother to show up, and paired off with Tories, meaning that the debate had been ranked of little importance (because you can't pair for important debates).

      I don't think they will get rid of it.

      I don't think they know who they are taking orders from.

      I'd not be surprised if Balls hadn't told Gray to try to work out how this can be done legally in Scotland, so that he won't have to do it in England. There it is big money, and as such pretty popular with the kind of voters they have to attract if they are going to win.

      Baillie is probably part of the Scottish clique, taking her orders from Lamont. She doesn't know where she is.

  10. tris

    Whadda abaht IDS being in the illustrious pantheon
    of fighters for social justice and equality (well maybe not equality )
    alongside William Wilberforce.Gandhi,martin Luther king and other
    like minded saints.

    why the pope is considering having him canonised forthwith
    such is IDS sublime holliness....

    His modesty is only surpassed by his commitment to freeing
    the poor from the burden of welfare. thus being free to pursue
    their individual pathways to starvation and death..not at the public

    the man ???? is a total cnut
    dont mention the 1.5 million his family claimed in eu benefits
    ruins the story for him.

    1. No, Niko we must never mention that the family estate did very very well out of claiming every last bit of benefit they could get from the EU... ooooopps, look I've gone and blurted it out that they were standing there with their hands held out to the EU...getting something for nothing that hard working people up and down the continent had worked hard to pay for with their taxes, while se idle rich people pocketed all that money.

      No the subject must never be mentioned on Munguin's Republic.

      We also probably shouldn't mention anything about Betsygate, you know…his wife's job as his diary secretary...or the fact she must be very quiet and very tidy and exteeeeeemly thin, because none of the other staff ever caught sight of her in the office, or heard of her, except to pay out her salary.

      Nope, that's another thing that should never be mentioned. I hope you'll respect that Niko, and not go bleating about it all over the place to embarrass the poor man.

      I hope that when the Pope canonises him, he uses a real canon and blasts him to Perugia, where he will remember his days a student at the University of PERUGIA (founded 1308 by the Pope)... no, wait, that was a lie... sorry, I meant the University of Stranieri in Perugia (founded 1921), where he only did a year's study and left without any qualifications.

      But we won't talk about that either.

      Actually, when it comes down to IDS, there are a lot of things that we shouldn’t mention. No wonder they called him the quiet man.

      I’m sure I’ve read something like his claims before, somewhere else, but I have a feeling that it wasn’t in English… German maybe?

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Whatever it is, Labour are a shambles.

    Let's hope the contortions they are going through are their death throes, in Scotland at the very least.

    1. I'd actually like them to improve a lot after we get independence David. The Tories or whatever the hard right decide to call themselves after 2016 will take a long time to gain any traction here, and the Liberals are dead as dodos.

      We need a strong Labour party, and a strong National party.

  13. First of all I would not trust Labour at all, this is just a a new approach, a move away from the Bain method. The voters weren't buying the block at every turn approach so now it's the partnership, honest, caring approach. Bullshit.

    I also hate the bedroom tax but we should not make any further cuts elsewhere to elviate this tax. That is what the Tories want and is the start to reducing our pocket money , I would not be surprised if the 3 Tory parties are working together.


    1. I take your point that something else would have to be cut, Bruce. Maybe something like MSPs' salaries would be somewhere to start, and every Scottish MP could make a contribution, since they are paid for doing the same kind of job as an English MP but have far less work to do as a huge amount of the work that their English counterparts do is taken on my the constituents' MSP.

      I just don't want to hear of another poor soul being put on the street to satisfy IDS's sadistic enjoyment at causing pain to the working classes.

    2. BTW, I still can't post on your blog, Derek batemans or Wings!!!

      But good post anyway! :)

  14. Replies
    1. Good article again by Derek.

      The BBC is so inept.

      The organisation is one of the great mysteries of our time.

      How can you have a state broadcaster which is funded by a licence on having a tv (regardless of whether you ever watch BBC), with 8 or 9 (is it?) tv stations and countless radio stations, most of which could easily be commercial because they largely broadcast pap, in the 21st century...especially in a country where they have privatised water, gas, electricity and are working on the privatisation of the police, health services and education?

      There must be a way that a tv could be doctored to stop it receiving BBC channels. This is 2014!

  15. Replies
    1. Thanks for that. That is a night's entertainment...

  16. Just checking to see if my post appears, I keep getting "you appear to have said that already" when I try to post on Wings

  17. so it seems as if I exist here but oddly I tried to post a comment on Derek Bateman's site and nothing am I persona non grata or something?

  18. Just checking to see if my post appears, I keep getting "you appear to have said that already" when I try to post on Wings

    1. Must be some glitch...

      Suddenly I can't post on Wings, Bateman or Grumpy.

      I'm sure I've not been banned, so something online, I guess.

      Anyway... it appears that you are not persona non grata here

  19. now that's interesting I posted that test once but it appears twice 10 minutes apart, hence the "you appear to have already said that" any ideas anyone?

  20. Getting paranoid in my old age Tris, Stu said he was'nt aware of anything but at least we now both know its system issue phew

    1. Technology... don't ya just love it!?!

  21. Hi Tris, a bit of background on why we can't mitigate the effects of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland.

    Under Schedule 5, Section F1 of the 1998 Scotland Act the Scottish Government is not allowed to get involved in benefits as that is a reserved power. Housing benefit is actually named specifically as a reserved benefit.

    How then, you ask, did John Swinney give £20 Million to the councils to help mitigate the bedroom tax. I'll come to that.

    Housing benefit is distributed by the local authorities in Scotland as the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) which is the benefit the Bedroom Tax affects. The rules on how much LHA the councils can pay each claimant are set by strict guidelines from Westminster as benefits are a reserved power.

    The councils have another fund called Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) which they can use as they wish to help those in need of housing assistance and this is the fund they are using to help those affected by the Bedroom Tax. The councils can decided who gets help and how much. This is also funded from Westminster by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and they gave £13.5 Million in total across all Scottish local authorities this year. Under the DWP rules the councils can add another 150% to the DHP from their own funds. Can you start to see where the £20 Million figure came from?

    So how did John Swinney give the councils £20 Million for DHP if the Scottish Parliament is not allowed to get involved in benefits? The way round it was to give it to the councils as part of their general grant with no ring fencing. It's not defined as for benefits and the councils have no legal obligation to hand it out as DHP so it's "nod and a wink" stuff between the Scottish Parliament and the Councils.

    So here's the two problems that Labour are unable to suggest a way round even though they bang on and on an on about how the SNP could help more.

    The Scottish Government is forbidden from getting involved in benefits. It cannot hand out money directly to benefit claimants.

    Ah, you think, but John Swinney has already handed out £20 Million to the councils as part of their general grant why can't he hand out another £30 million to the councils (assuming of course that he can find the money from his limited Westminster block grant) and they can distribute it for him.

    Well he could but there would be no point. Remember the councils got £13.5 Million from the DWP and they can add another 150% to that which they got from John Swinney. That means they are at the limit of the £33.5 Million total that the DWP allows them to hand out as DHP's.

    The councils are at the limit of what they are allowed to hand out and it doesn't matter how much more money John Swinney gives them they can't pass it on to those affected by the Bedroom Tax.

    So now you see the problem. Unless the Labour party can find a legal way round Schedule 5 in the 1998 Scotland Act or the £33.5 Million limit the Department of Work and Pensions has placed on the Discretionary Housing Payments from the councils they are just blowing hot air from their nether regions when they bang on about how the Scottish Parliament has the power to alleviate the Bedroom Tax.

    1. Thank you very much Doug.

      I hope you won't mind if I put this up as a post on its own, as perhaps only a few people will see it on a post a couple of days old...

      You explanation is very clear... and I appreciate the time you took to write it.


    2. Hi Tris, that's fine.

      If you're interested this is where I got the info about the £13.5 Million funding from the DWP.

      Written evidence submitted by Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)