Little credit for Moray politicians and their very public tiff

Sean Morton and Richard Lochhead - 'unseemly' public exchange
Sean Morton and Richard Lochhead – ‘unseemly’ public exchange

AN UNSEEMLY ONLINE row broke out last night between two Moray politicians who exchanged insults over a disagreement on what to do about Tax Credits.

Moray councillor and candidate for a seat at the Scottish Parliament elections next year, Sean Morton, challenged local MSP Richard Lochhead to explain his government’s U-turn over the issue earlier in the day.

Councillor Morton accused the MSP and his party of “letting down 4000 people in Moray” who are under threat of their Tax Credits being reduced under current UK Government legislation in April.

The response from Mr Lochhead was to ask Councillor Morton to explain to the 4000 why he had stood side by side with the Tory Party during the Scottish Referendum campaign last year.

During a debate in Holyrood, Justice Secretary Alex Neil had to perform an embarrassing U-turn on his earlier claim that the Scottish Government would not have the powers to restore tax credits in Scotland – when in fact it emerged they would.

Commenting on the subsequent social media exchange with Mr Lochhead, the Labour councillor said: “Richard Lochhead is meant to be Moray’s man in the SNP government, not the SNP’s man in Moray.

“His response to my legitimate question asking how he would vote on Labour’s motion to restore tax credits shows what he thinks about the people who voted No in Moray last year.

“Anyone who voted No is hand in hand with the Tories apparently – and not allowed to challenge the SNP. The truth is, it’s the SNP who were hand in hand with the Tories when it mattered – voting down our plan to restore tax credits to 4000 Moray families.

“He should be the one apologising tonight. Those families have no idea how they are going to manage.”

Earlier Councillor Morton, who last week confirmed his candidacy for a seat at Holyrood, attacked the failure of the SNP members of the Scottish Government to back a Labour plan to use the new powers given to them in the Scotland Bill on tax credits.

Councillor Morton said: “Today was a defining moment in the history of the Scottish Parliament.  Knowing we will soon have the powers to do things differently – the SNP should have supported Labour’s plan to restore tax credits. Instead they chose to do nothing.

“We have set out clearly what we will do – take action to restore the tax credits that around 4000 Moray families rely on. But in the Labour motion we set out no detail, just a principle that tax credits should be restored.

“The SNP could have voted for that once they admitted the powers were coming but they couldn’t bring themselves to fight for families. They’d rather fight the Labour Party.”

Editor’s Comments

This online exchange will be seen by many as nothing more than the first swipes between two opponents in a forthcoming national election.

However, it will also be seen as an unseemly and wholly unsavoury public row from two sides of the political divide over an issue that, actually, they agree on.

The new age of political awareness in Scotland brought about by the Scottish Referendum is in danger of being lost when politicians insist on this type of tit-for-tat “I’m less evil than you are” public exchange. We are not fooled by it, and rather than pointing us in one direction or the other at the polling stations they serve only to keep people away from voting in the first place.

On Tax Credit reductions both Labour and SNP are agreed – Scotland has the power to do something about them, Scotland should do something about them.

So how about rather than conducting petty public face-offs they just concentrate on the job at hand and work together on this – and the many other areas on which they are not so far apart as they would have us believe?