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By Bob Duncan
Johann Lamont is "running scared" and must live up to her own demands for an open debate on universal services and benefits, say the SNP, after her party torpedoed a member's debate on the subject which was due to take place today.
As revealed by the Sunday Herald at the weekend, the debate was cancelled at short notice after Labour complained that the motion did not have sufficient cross-party support. The Labour party could have resolved this by signing the motion but chose instead to let it be cancelled through their inaction.
The SNP's Clare Adamson MSP has today written to the Scottish Leader Johann Lamont, as well as Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson, calling on all three party leaders to let their members sign her motion, which welcomes the publication of the report by the Jimmy Reid Foundation on the Case for Universalism in Scotland.
As reported in Newsnet Scotland on Monday, the Foundation's Director Robin McAlpine used the Foundation's website to urge Labour to "openly debate" the issue and warned against taking part in "only debates you think you will win", calling such an approach "unhealthy".
Mr McAlpine added: "It is how political parties become convinced in policies that have not been robustly tested through argument. It prevents you from developing your own thinking sufficiently. It encourages you to hide behind pre-prepared soundbites. It is comfortable in the short term but weakens you in the long term."
Ms Adamson is attempting to have the debate rescheduled at the first opportunity, but she needs the support of at least one Labour, Tory or Lib Dem MSP in order for the motion to be accepted.
Johann Lamont has repeatedly called for an 'honest debate' on the provision of universal services, while the Sunday Herald this week quoted a Labour spokesperson as saying they "look forward to debating Scotland's spending priorities with the Government at every opportunity". The SNP say this means there should be no issue with Labour MSPs signing this motion.
Ms Adamson said: "I was absolutely exasperated to hear that my debate had been cancelled at short notice, after a Labour Party complaint led to it being pulled.
"Johann Lamont has repeatedly called for an 'honest debate' on the affordability of universal services – last week she even accused the First Minister attempting to stifle a debate on spending priorities. Yet at that very moment, Labour were working behind the scenes to have a debate on the subject cancelled.
"All parties have an interest in debating this topic, but it's in Johann Lamont interests in particular not to run scared from discussing her key flagship policy.
"All she has done so far with her Cuts Commission is cause alarm to tens of thousands of Scots who rely on these services which she wishes to cut – now she has the chance to specifically set out what cuts she wants to make, and why.
"I have absolutely no problem in standing up for the achievements of Devolution – and for a socially progressive Scotland - but if Ms Lamont wishes to roll these achievements back and inflict Tory cuts, then she must be prepared to defend this publicly.
"The question for Johann Lamont must surely be - will she now allow this debate to go ahead, or is she afraid of what she is going to hear?"