The former Scottish Conservative leader and peer Annabel Goldie insisted lords “add value” to government positions, following the appointment of a wealthy party donor.
In an exclusive interview for The Stooshie – the politics podcast from DC Thomson – Baroness Goldie said the public should not “speculate” why some people are put in post above elected MPs.
She was responding to questions after Conservative party donor Malcolm Offord, who failed to win a seat at the 2021 Holyrood election, was given a peerage in the Lords by Boris Johnson.
He was then given a role in the Scotland Office.
Baroness Goldie, in a wide-ranging interview, also said:
- Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross was right to say the party best reflects the interests of working people.
- It was right to withdraw the £20 uplift to Universal Credit now the economy is “functioning once again”.
- The military is performing a valuable role helping the health service during a tough time.
‘Delighted’ at Offord appointment
The former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who herself is a baroness in the House of Lords and serves as defence minister in government, said she is “delighted” to see Mr Offord given a peerage because of his past achievements in Scotland.
Mr Offord runs an investment office specialising in private equity and property in Edinburgh and was a campaigner for Better Together during the 2014 independence referendum.
There are many people who go into the House of Lords – I’m one of them and people might well ask the question: what’s she doing there?
– Annabel Goldie
In our Stooshie podcast interview, Baroness Goldie said: “There are many people who go into the House of Lords – I’m one of them and people might well ask the question: what’s she doing there?
“I don’t think it’s for any of us to speculate on why people are there. I’m delighted to see someone from Scotland, with Malcom Offord’s achievements within Scotland being recognised.
“He will be a very useful addition to the ministerial staff in the Scotland Office and I think he has a very established reputation in Scotland and will add value to what we are doing within Scotland.”
She claimed she is “much too unimportant” to comment on why Mr Offord was chosen instead of a Conservative MP who had been democratically elected to the House of Commons.
Baroness defends Universal Credit cut
Baroness Goldie was also asked to justify the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift after current party leader Douglas Ross said the Scottish Conservatives were the party of the working people.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic those claiming Universal Credit had their weekly income topped up by £20.
The uplift was removed on October 6, only days after the UK Government’s furlough scheme ended.
Baroness Goldie said the Conservatives aim to give people from all backgrounds the chance to get an education and get a job or set up their own business.
She added Universal Credit is one of the “most important changes ever made” to the welfare system as it allows unemployed people to get a job without being “penalised”.
It was temporary for a very specific reason.
– Annabel Goldie on the Universal Credit uplift
She said: “What we saw with Covid was quite extraordinary economic impacts and the government responded, in my opinion, absolutely rightly.
“Part of that was to offer an uplift in Universal Credit to see people over that immediate and, for many of us, unpredictable hurdle.
“But where we are now is the economy is once again functioning and we are growing our economy very healthily in comparison to other G7 countries.
“It was temporary for a very specific reason.”
She said the household support fund, which will give the Scottish Government £41 million to help those who are struggling, can be used to plug the gap.
People can get help from their local job centre or local authority, she added.
The new Household Support Fund will support millions of households and be distributed by who know their local areas best and can directly help those who need it most. https://t.co/kQHXsufXZE
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) September 30, 2021
The former West of Scotland MSP said people may need to be prepared to “look at types of jobs they didn’t consider before” to help fill vacancies in industries currently facing staffing shortages, such as hospitality, tourism and care.
She said: “There is opportunity to work, no doubt about it, and it’s up to people to make their own individual decisions on how they want to do that.
“But it is absolutely clear with the growing economy, job opportunities are there.”
Heating or eating ‘a stark choice’
A number of campaigners and those who will be directly affected by the removal of the £20 uplift say this forces them to choose between heating or eating over the winter months.
When asked what she would do if she was forced to make that choice, Baroness Goldie said: “That is a stark choice, which sounds horrendous.
“Many people are finding economic opportunities are beginning to open up for them that weren’t there when we introduced the Universal Credit uplift.
“That is why we introduced it, so there was some form of support when nothing else was available.
“I very much hope that horrible choice doesn’t confront anyone but if anyone does find themselves in a crisis, I emphasise there is advice to hand and there are other interventions to help.”
Listen to the full interview with Baroness Goldie on The Stooshie.
To listen and subscribe, free, search for ‘The Stooshie’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts!