I regularly get emails and letters from constituents asking me questions on a whole range of issues. I recently received an interesting letter which raised the issue of increasing inequality in our society and asking my views on the matter. As this is an issue that I know is of real importance for many people across Glasgow, I think it is important for me to share my response:
Income and wealth inequality in our country is a massive problem and one that needs to be tackled. There is both a moral and economic case for tackling income inequality and this is one of the reasons why I joined the Labour party and why I entered politics.
As I’m sure you’re aware, the Labour Party has a proud history of fighting inequality and poverty. From the creation of the welfare state under the 1945 Attlee Government, to the implementation of a National Minimum Wage in 1999, the Labour Party has sought to redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest in society and we have a record on this to be proud of.
It is with this unshakeable belief in the principle of social justice that we in the Labour Party continue to fight against income and wealth inequality. At UK level, ahead of the General Election in 2015, the Labour Party have already committed to increasing the minimum wage to £8.00 by 2020 – a rise of £1.50 an hour for Britain’s lowest paid workers, worth £60 a week or £3,000 a year for a full time worker on the minimum wage. In addition to this we will introduce sweeping reforms of the private rented housing sector which will help millions of households caught in the cost-of-living crisis. We have pledged to introduce a mansion tax on properties over £2 million which would pay for the reinstatement of a 10p tax rate to help millions of people on low and middle incomes. We will also increase the top rate of income tax from 45p to 50p for individuals earning over £150,000 which would raise £10bn over three years.
In Scotland, the Scottish Labour Party have campaigned to ensure that the living wage is part of all public sector contracts, a move which was sadly voted down by the Scottish Government. We also pushed the Scottish Government to use their powers to fully mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax, as well as proposing private sector rent-reforms that would cap rent increases and limit rent reviews to once a year. These are moves that would put money back in the pockets of ordinary working people.
Trade unions need to be at the centre of this fight against income and wealth inequality. Margaret Thatcher’s attack on the trade unions during her years in power significantly weakened them and played a big part in increasing income inequality. I am a proud trade unionist but understand the need to find new and creative forms of representation for workers in an ever changing world.
In my role as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow region, I will continue to do everything in my power to fight social and economic injustice and for a fairer and more equal society.
Anne McTaggart MSP