LEFT-WING Scottish Labour leadership candidate Neil Findlay MSP yesterday called out his Blairite rival Jim Murphy MP over the council tax freeze which has cost thousands of jobs in local government.
Responding to a speech in which Mr Murphy called for “devo max within Scotland” — a transfer of powers from Holyrood to local communities — Mr Findlay said: “If Jim has come round to my idea of stronger local government that’s great but he can’t support stronger local government and a council tax freeze at the same time, it’s impossible.”
Earlier, Mr Murphy had told an invited Glasgow audience that he would hand local councils and other bodies some of the powers which the Smith Commission has recommended should be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood.
“I will devolve the work programme to local communities,” Mr Murphy said.
“Councillors, charities and local organisations working together in different parts of Scotland are far better placed to end the cycle of worklessness and deprivation than the government in Edinburgh.”
Mr Findlay hit back saying Mr Murphy’s “repeated endorsement” of continuing with the council tax freeze was “a position at odds with greater council autonomy.”
The Lothians MSP, whose grassroots leadership campaign has mobilised hundreds of Labour activists, said: “At meeting after meeting during this campaign I’ve been outlining my support for stronger local government with councils able to make their own decisions and be held accountable for them, while Jim Murphy has been advocating keeping the council tax freeze.”
Alongside Mr Findley’s campaign for leader, Ayrshire MP Katy Clark is mounting a positive and effective left-wing challenge for the Scottish Labour deputy leadership against establishment favourite MSP Kezia Dugdale.
The Findlay campaign has surprised media commentators who immediately made Murphy favourite to win the Scottish Labour leadership ahead of Mr Findlay and former Labour minister Sarah Boyack MSP, after the surprise resignation of Johann Lamont in October.
With close of poll on Wednesday December 10 and results due to be announced on Saturday 13, Neil Findlay told the Morning Star he was in buoyant mood.
“The polls show a change in policy direction will win over voters who’ve abandoned us for the SNP, and my campaign shows it’ll help rebuild our grassroots too,” he said.