18/12/2012 Newsnight Scotland


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January and the Met place say they are -- their investigations


continue. Tonight on Newsnight Scotland:


Is there a political consensus building against universal


benefits? This is Ferguslie Park in Paisley,


officially the most deprived area in Scotland. How does paying


benefits to middle class families help the families who live here?


And the heart of darkness. What is it about Scots, especially middle-


aged Scottish men, that drives so many to kill themselves?


Good evening. First it was Joanne Lamont then it


was Nick Clegg, then it was Joanne Lamont again. From the left, the


idea that people should receive some benefits, regardless of their


income is beginning to be questioned. Benefits like free bus


passes for the over 60s, free prescriptions and in Scotland, free


tuition fees. One such benefit, child benefit, has already ceased


to be universal. From next month it will be means-tested. So, in these


times of austerity, what should and shouldn't be universally provided


This is a story about making hard choices in difficult economic times.


Choose to provide people with one benefit and then you are choosing


not to fund something else. And elected Governments in Edinburgh


and London have made their own choices and both have chosen to


provide benefits to people regardless of how well off they are.


In Scotland, the big particular particular ticket benefits are free


tuition fees and free prescriptions. This is Ferguslie Park. Should


benefits be means-tested so people in areas like this might get a


greater concentration of resources or should they be given to everyone


regardless of whether they need them or not?


Drive a few miles away and you are in one of the most affluent areas


in Glasgow. A world apart in terms of income, but some of the


advantages are the same. Residents here get free


prescriptions, free bus travel and winter fuel allowances, but are


these benefits they don't need? What would happen if they were


taken away? APPLAUSE


And that possibility raised its head yesterday. Nick Clegg told a


press conference basically there is no such thing as a free lunch.


Support fairness by making clear that money should not be paid to


those who don't need it. Looking again at universal benefits paid to


the wealthiest pensioners for example.


Joanne Lamont put her head above the parapet a few months ago when


they kick started the debate on universal universal universali ity?


We need to be honest about the the sustainability of free higher


education and the impact it will have on academic standards? This


man says take universal benefit away at your peril.


Only looking at one side of the argument, universal benefits is


flawed. If you take the middle classes out of the Welfare State,


they are not going to support it. You won't get support for the


system that is likely to address inequalities. We know this from


looking at Sweden where the middle classes get something back for the


support of the Welfare State. I don't care if Rod Stewart gets a


free bus pass or millionaire's kids free university education as long


as they are paying for it in their tax.


They argue we are going a different way from the rest of the UK. .P-


Everyone says Scotland is not that different from the rest of the UK.


But they vote to the left. They like the idea of being more sharing


and more collective. Actually, polling in Scotland


suggests support for universal benefits like tuition fees and free


bus travel is well, not universal. But there are political no go areas


for any Government. The public would not support removing benefits


like free access to GPs and free hospital meals. But there is a


debate about what should be universally provided and it looks


like it will be one of the big political issues of the next few


I'm joined by Robin McAlpine of the Jimmy Reid Foundation and in our


London studio is Graeme Cooke of the Institute of Public Policy


Finance. Is this a trend that politicians that we would normally


consider to be left of centre are questioning the universality of


benefits? What Joanne Lamont was doing today was pointing out that


the essence of politics is priorities especially when there is


less money around. There is a trade-off to be struck between


access to higher education and the quality and standards of the


education pro provided and the costs and who pays for it. There is


choices to be made about where universalism is most and less


important and it is grown-up politics to have an honest debate


about that. But you wouldn't see it that way,


would you? It is fine that we have a debate about it, but I have


problems with the suggestion that we look at this only true the prism


of a set Budget of afford affordability and we don't think


about what works, what makes a difference, what really improves


society? The answer is we have not come up with any system which is as


good at eradicating poverty and promoting equality across society


as a universal universal Welfare State.


Let's get back to the philosophy in a moment. Let's take one example


and it is one of the things that has been raised by Nick Clegg and


from his own point of view, Iain Duncan Smith which is winner fuel


payments which are paid -- winter fuel payments which are made Peaud


to middle -- paid to middle-class people who don't need them. Can you


see any justification for making that a universal benefit? There is


no point in having this this debate in the abstract. Governments raise


taxation and they spend and they have to balance those two out over


a cycle and it seems to me hard to justify taking away tax credits


from low income working families when you are protecting universal


winner fuel allowance and free TV TV licences for well off pensioners.


In principle, it would be great if we could provide these things to


everyone with no limits, but there are limits and and politics is


about making priorities and choices and what is most important? And


where do you want to defend universalism on education and


health and schools? There are many pensioners that need it, but it is


a particularly acute example, isn't it? I mean I think the bedrock of


the Welfare State is the contributingtry, the basic State


pension that should go to to to everyone that contributed to the


system either through working or caring and the winter fuel


allowance and free TV licences which are going to well off


pensioners and significant sums of money could be saved if those


benefits only went to the people on low incomes. And politics is about


making those priorities. Let's stick to winter fuel payments.


You have got lots of general arguments in your your leaflet. How


would you justify that payment being universal?


Supporting universalism doesn't mean supporting every possible


expenditure that you could make from the Welfare State, but I want


to shift the argument away from that because the fairness isn't in


how you spend it, the the fairness is how you raise it. If we allow


this debate to become a question of which piece of expenditure is or


isn't more beneficial to one one group or another group, we take our


eyes off the picture. I see the point. But you have argued in


pieces that you have written that an unspecified they are involved in


an attack on the Welfare State. When I ask you about a specific


thing that people like Iain Duncan Smith and Nick Clegg are


questioning, you back off and say, "I don't like attacks on universal


ben benefits, but that one is fine.". If we want to create the


best possible means of running our country, we don't start with winter


fuel allowances. The inefficiency of managing means-tested benefits


such as winter fuel has two massive down sides. It is incredibly


inefficient. Fraud, error and administrative costs are high. More


important if we keep winter fuel payments only for the poor, we do


not have social buy in. Well, I wonder if you would agree


with that because many of the universal benefits which people say,


"No, you can't take them a I them away." Are recent. I don't think


winter fuel payments date back that long? Free education in Scotland,


under the previous Government there was a form of graduate tax. Free


prescription have been in for a year or two. A lot of these things


are new things, aren't they? At one level Robin is right because you


need to have systems where people pay in and have a a progressive tax


system. It is in more institutions like the NHS, free education that


people really do bind people together. It is in those areas I


would defend universalism. I think it is important to extend


universalism into areas like childcare, but given there are


limited resources, that might mean you have to scale back universalism


in areas like cash payments. What you are saying might might be


an argument for universalism which is bringing people together for


example children from different backgrounds which could help the


children from less well off backgrounds perhaps as the one


could help ones from better off backgrounds and that's something


I think there are institutions and places in society when people from


different backgrounds come together and benefit from each other. But I


am not convinced that the cash transaction that goes from the


Government to someone's bank account is vital for building


social Solidarity around the welfare state. I'd think we need to


get past these general arguments. We need to have a realistic


conversation about what we want to prioritise and where universalism


is more or less important. Adam, you would think that idea of things


that bring people together is not about criteria. It is an excellent


criteria. One of the things I think is interesting about this debate is


that I have not heard anyone say we're going to have to lives with


rising rates of crime because we cannot afford the police. What I am


uncomfortable with and will be apt to be aware of is creating one box


into which we put things that a right-wing ideologues would like to


see attacked and calls on affordable and another boxer would


put essentials. If we are going to have this debate, we have to step


right back and look at overall budget priorities. Thank you very


much. How many Scottish people do you


think will themselves? 200, 300? The bad news is that according to


statistics, 1533 people to their lives in Scotland in 2009. -- June


2009 and 2010. What is it about Scot's that so many enter their own


lives? Image of the suicide rates per


hundred 1000 of the population. In 2002, seven -- Scotland at 17.6 but


by 2010 it was 14.7. Statistical comparisons are difficult, but some


of the data is disturbing even if it is not surprising. Three-


quarters of our suicides are male. In 1968, a Scottish working man


with six % more likely to kill themselves than his equivalent in


England. By 2010, he was 75 % more likely. The Scottish women, it the


incidence is twice as bad than four English counterparts. It is the


third worth in Scotland. Norway has moved in the other direction.


Scottish male suicide figures compare with Sweden. Things are


significantly worse in Finland, Poland and Hungary. They are


getting better faster than we are. Southern Europe is better than the


north. Of course, you cannot make too much from statistical


generalisations about individual tragedies. But there are trends and


similarities which may help people understand, predict and prevent


some suicides. There is no typical Scottish suicide. If there were, he


would be male, he would be aged between his mid-30s and mid-50s. He


would be much more likely poor and rich. He would probably not be from


the Western Isles but could be from Glasgow, or the Highlands, or


Shetland or Galloway. He would have a skilled trade and probably be


single. He may well have been in hospital, perhaps as a previous


attempt of self-harm. He is likely to have had our recent prescription


for a mental health drug. Finally, he would end his own life in his


own home, by hanging or strangulation. I am joined from


Edinburgh by Professor Stephen Platt, the chair of the suicide


information database. Do you have any idea by the suicide rate here


should be getting worse? suicide rate in Scotland as well as


England has actually been coming down in the last ten years. The


problem is that our rate remains about 80 % higher than that rate in


England and Wales. So what is coming down but the gap is not


closing? Know. You say 80 % higher. Why should that be? We carried out


some research recently with colleagues in Manchester and


Glasgow and looked at this. Despite our best efforts, it is difficult


to explain all the reasons for the difference. Half of it is


unexplained. Or perhaps we can explain, it is largely down to


differences and a worse situation with regard to psychiatric health


or ill-health and alcohol related and drug-related problems. On top


of that, you have also got issues around social deprivation and the


break-up of communities. The major contribution it seems to be around


psychiatric, alcohol and drug factors. Give me a portrait of your


conception of people most at risk. The people most at risk are men,


far more than women, in the Thirties to 50s, living in the most


deprived circumstances. Either personally or in the areas they


live. This is part of a wider pattern common across the whole of


the UK, so there is nothing special about this. These are people born


around the mid-50s to the mid-70s. Some sociologists working on this


have talked about a bar for generations. At group of people,


particularly men, who are caught between a much more traditional,,


up traditional background, traditional culture, very little


change compared to a younger generation, this does -- the so-


called new generation who are much more independent minded. People in


this group are often struggling to know exactly where they fit. They


have also been faced with enormous social changes, higher divorce rate


and more single living, more partnering at losing partners,


changes in the world of work, many social and economic changes that


they had had to cope with, and they are often men in a situation where


they do not feel that they had either of the emotional literacy or


the skills to deal with this. last bit you said, is that why you


think men rather than women? Yes, because men, at this is a class


difference, men basically have fewer skills in relation to dealing


with psychological and emotional problems and greater difficulty in


knowing where to go for help. And that is across the whole all social


classes. Briefly, the standard figure here it there is one was for


Shetland. Has anyone done any work and why that should be. It is high


in the Highlands and Islands, the suicide rates have been high in


Glasgow and those are the main places. My hunch is that the reason


for these high rates are different. I think they have a late in Glasgow


very much to issues of social deprivation, whereas in the


Highlands and Islands I think the issues are to do with loneliness


and the strains of rural living, particularly in the farming


community. Thank you very much. The papers. The Scotsman, Christmas


rail strikes. The Scottish Daily Mail, Scots are punished by unfair


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