THE leader of Scotland's Roman Catholic Church has unleashed a blistering attack on the UK Government's economic policy, branding it "immoral", and reiterating the criticism of David Cameron that he is out of touch with the needs of ordinary people.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said yesterday the Prime Minister was helping his "very rich colleagues" in the City at the expense of the poorest in society and urged him to introduce a so-called Robin Hood Tax, a levy on share transactions, which, it is estimated, could raise £20 billion a year.
He said: "It's immoral, it's not moral, just to ignore them and to say – well, struggle along and the rich can go on sailing on their own sweet way."
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The Cardinal added: "Many in our Government and the Prime Minister have lost touch really with the reality of what's going on with ordinary folk."
His comments came as it emerged that Britain's 1000 richest people have increased their wealth in the past year to £414 billion, despite the fact the country is suffering its worst recession since the 1930s.
A weekend poll showed eight out of 10 people regarded Mr Cameron and his ministers as out of touch.
Tory MP Nadine Dorries last week called the Prime Minister and Chancellor George Osborne "two arrogant posh boys, who show no remorse, no contrition and no compassion" for other people's lives.
Last night, No 10 hit back, with a spokesman telling The Herald: "The Cardinal painted the Budget as immoral because he said it helped the rich and not the poor. We dispute that because more than two million people were taken out of tax and we saw the largest ever rise in the basic state pension."
He added that the UK Government had inherited an enormous debt but the PM was "determined to help people who are struggling with the consequences of that".
In a letter, the Cardinal called on Mr Cameron to introduce a financial transactions tax.
He told BBC Scotland: "I'm saying to the Prime Minister – look, don't just protect always your very rich colleagues in the financial industry, consider the moral obligation to help the poor in our country."
Cardinal O'Brien said his economic position was "not moral", adding the poor now included people who had lost pension savings and others considering giving up retirement homes.
In his letter, he describes the Coalition's opposition to a financial transactions tax as "shameful", describing the levy as simple, fair and sustainable.
"The banks and financial corporations have brought our country to its knees in recent years. This is clearly an opportunity for them to show that they are serious about being a source for social good moving forward," writes the Cardinal. He noted that a recent survey showed 62% of the Scottish public would welcome a Robin Hood Tax.
Mr Cameron is opposed to unilateral action on it and has described Franco-German plans for an EU-wide scheme as "madness", believing one would cost jobs and tax revenues and drive financial institutions out of Europe.
LibDem president Tim Farron said: "The people who are suffering the worst at any time of austerity are bound to be the least well-off. One of the reasons I was critical of the move to try and get the 50p rate reduced to 45p...is that it looks so dreadful."
Labour's Cathy Jamieson said the Coalition's policies are affecting the "squeezed middle and having a real impact on family life".
Stewart Hosi said the SNP supported the Cardinal's "concern for the poor."