Questions on inequality top referendum agenda

POLITICIANS on both side of the referendum debate were challenged over plans to tackle inequality.

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Politicians have been challenged to tackle inequality
Politicians have been challenged to tackle inequality

Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister, Anas Sarwar, Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, Patrick Harvie, Greens Co-convener and Jackie Baillie, Labour equalities spokeswoman, were quizzed by an audience at an Oxfam- organised debate in Glasgow.

All four agreed the level of inequality in Scotland was too great, but differed on how best to tackle it.

Jackie Baillie said changing the constitution would not make a difference, instead she said it needed political will to overcome the challenges.

She said: "There is not one tax rise in the (Scotland's Future) White Paper, but you have to find the money to pay for public services.

"You can't have US style taxation and Scandinavian public services."

Ms Sturgeon said: "We are in one of the most unequal countries in the developed world and the gap is getting wider.

"That's not the policies of one party or another, that's years of Westminster policies

"Independence gives us the opportunity to change things it's not a magic wand. We can only change if the power lies in our own hands."

Mr Sarwar said he wanted the resources of the UK to be used to tackle inequality across the UK.

He said: "No one can tell me it's negative to campaign for a worker in Manchester to help support someone in Glasgow or one in Aberdeen to help support someone in Cardiff."

Mr Harvie said there is not a welfare state in Britain any more and the economic mode was driving inequality

He said: "The benefits system is now used to bully people into low paid work and subsidise employers who pay low wages."

He advocated an increase in tax to tackle inequality.

Oxfam said it did not take a position on the referendum but instead wanted to focus politicians on tackling inequality whatever the outcome.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland: "Inequality isn't just a Scottish problem it's a global challenge.

"Scotland is a wealthy country, but right now that wealth is far too concentrated.

"Poverty is increasing with a surge in food bank use and growing numbers of people who are struggling to get."

stewart.paterson@eveningtimes.co.uk

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