sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul

Wings Over Scotland


The wrong lizards

Posted on June 09, 2012 by

Thursday night’s Question Time from Inverness saw Johann Lamont once again trot out the line that the independence referendum doesn’t offer Scotland its only realistic chance of escaping Tory government for the forseeable future. Once again, the Labour quasi-leader insisted (56m 50s) that the choice between independence and the Tories was a false one, and that her party provided a genuine ideological alternative to the right-wing neoliberal philosophy which has dominated UK politics since 1979.

Unfortunately, that’s a lie. And the really troubling thing about it is that it means NOBODY is speaking for the majority of the British population, which almost certainly means that no mainstream political party is interested in representing your views. Which, you might think, is a pretty odd way to be running a supposed democracy.

Because if you fall into any of the categories below, you have no UK party to vote for who will act in your interest (none that has a realistic chance of obtaining any power under FPTP, anyway – sorry, Greens). Neither Labour, the Tories or the Lib Dems are even promising to do anything for you, never mind actually intending to.

Even if you live in one of the 20% of Westminster constituencies where there’s a remote chance of the seat changing hands at any given election, your vote is a hollow pantomime if any of the statements below applies to you.

 

1. “I’M A TENANT”

You’d never know it from reading newspapers or watching TV, but millions of adults in Britain DON’T own their own homes. Around a third of the population – 20 million people – lives in rented accommodation, and their chances of ever joining the ranks of owner-occupiers get more and more distant with every passing month.

Even in the midst of an economic crisis, house prices grew by over 10% between 2009 and 2010, despite the average wage rise during the recession being close to zero. Since Labour came to power in 1997, when Gordon Brown promised “I will not allow house prices to get out of control and put at risk the sustainability of the future”, the ratio of the average house price to the average wage has almost doubled (and in many areas, far more than that).

If you don’t already own a home, the chances that you ever will are vanishing, at an ever-quickening pace. Meanwhile, those who do have enjoyed a windfall of hundreds of pounds a month during the recession as interest rates have been slashed to 0%. Buy-to-let landlords also enjoy generous tax breaks and crank rents ever higher, even at times when house prices fall. At the same time the government chases eagerly behind them, with a policy of steadily increasing social-housing rents in real terms until they match the runaway private sector.

All of this builds a bigger and ever more insurmountable barrier in front of those who don’t already own their homes, not least because tenants have to spend so much of their income on rent that their chance of saving up some cash for a now-vast deposit becomes an impossible pipe-dream.

Consciously, deliberately and vigorously, successive Tory and Labour rulers have engaged in an aggressive programme of separating society into haves and have-nots, defined by property ownership, with the intention of making the division permanent. With the government’s full approval, home-owners are pulling the housing ladder up behind them, and the huge unearned profits they make from simply sitting in their houses are funded by levying crippling rents on everyone else who arrived too late for the gold-rush of the 1990s.

The current economic crisis was almost entirely caused by this policy. Desperately trying to get onto the housing ladder before it disappeared out of reach forever drove millions of people into the so-called “sub-prime” mortgage market, which was the cause of the catastrophic banking crash, which in turn has reinforced the economic apartheid still further. (By handing home-owners more free money, as noted above, and penalising the poor with job losses and below-inflation wage rises.)

It’s absolutely clear that in the interests of both “fairness” and the rebuilding of the economy on solid and sustainable ground, house prices have to fall, and fall substantially. But there are, of course, no votes in slashing house prices – or at least, none in the marginal Middle England constituencies which are the only ones that are actually fought for in our crooked, broken electoral system.

So Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems all pursue policies of frantically propping up the lethally-inflated property market rather than building social housing (every one of Labour’s three administrations from 1997-2010 shamefully delivered far less new social housing, and more private homes, than the Conservative government that preceded them) leaving us with the democratic choice between making the situation worse, a lot worse, or MUCH worse. Place your X beside one of the options below, voter.

TORIES: right to buy, little/no new social housing, prop up house prices
LABOUR: right to buy, little/no new social housing, prop up house prices
LIB DEMS: right to buy, little/no new social housing, prop up house prices

 

2. “I’M A STUDENT”

Every UK party is committed to tuition fees of at least £6000 a year. That includes the one whose MPs without exception pledged in writing before the 2010 election to vote against any increase from the previous figure of £3000 (but then voted to treble it the minute they got into power), and of course the party that introduced tuition fees in the first place, and then trebled them, after promising not to.

If you believe in the fundamental principle of education according to the ability to learn, not the ability to pay, no electable UK political party represents your views. Your options are to vote for crippling tuition fees or even more crippling tuition fees. That’s the modern reality of democratic choice, Westminster style.

TORIES: £9,000 tuition fees, likely to increase
LABOUR: £6,000 tuition fees, likely to increase
LIB DEMS: £9,000 tuition fees, likely to increase

3. “I’M UNEMPLOYED/POOR/ILL/DISABLED”

The current bewilderingly vicious assault on the sick and vulnerable being mounted by the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition must surely rank as one of the most evil acts ever perpetrated by a British government against its own people. When even the Daily Mail is horrified at the scale and brutality of the attacks on the weakest in society, it’s surely beyond rational debate that the policy is wrong.

Yet one of the main reasons the coalition has been able to push the reforms forward so quickly is that all the groundwork had already been done by Labour. The humiliating “Work Capability Assessment” medical tests that have seen the terminally-ill and people unable to walk deemed “fit for work” were introduced by Gordon Brown in 2008. Atos Healthcare – the French company paid hundreds of millions to administer the tests despite a record of gross incompetence – were first contracted by Labour, making the party’s manufactured outrage at Atos’ profits all the more hypocritical.

Similarly, Labour’s protests at recent “workfare” schemes forcing the unemployed to work for commercial companies for free ring a little hollow given that it was Labour which pioneered the concept when it was in power. Indeed, the party doesn’t even have the decency to be ashamed of its abandonment of the vulnerable, instead angrily protesting that it isn’t some sort of charity.

But it’s not just the unemployed and the sick who are now demonised and persecuted by all three parties. Even the working poor can now expect to be hammered to the tune of hundreds of pounds a month, forcing many into unemployment because the withdrawal of Working Tax Credits and the Housing Benefit cap (on top of numerous other wide-ranging cuts to housing payments) mean it’s no longer possible to survive on their wages, particularly as inflation continues to outstrip wage rises, leaving millions of already-struggling working people growing steadily worse off every year. (Having already suffered due to Labour’s abolition of the 10p tax rate.)

Yet once again, the supposed party of the working class offers no alternative beyond tweaking the coalition’s policies at the edges. All of the fundamental principles are conceded – or, indeed, were proposed by Labour first – leaving voters no legitimate democratic way to resist. (Or even protest, except from inside a “kettle”.)

TORIES: housing benefit caps, workfare, force disabled into job market
LABOUR: housing benefit caps, workfare, force disabled into job market
LIB DEMS: housing benefit caps, workfare, force disabled into job market

4. “I’M ANTI-WAR”

The UK went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan despite the largest public protests in the nation’s (perhaps the world’s) history, massively flawed intelligence, extremely doubtful legal justification and the blindingly obvious fact that it would make the country more likely to be targeted by terrorist attacks.

Over a decade and hundreds of British deaths later, the UK public still doesn’t really understand why we’re fighting or what we can hope to achieve, think the war is unwinnable, and wants our soldiers brought home. More than three-quarters of the electorate wants UK armed forces out of Afghanistan immediately, regardless of whether “victory” has been achieved or not.

(The troops themselves don’t get a say in the matter.)

Yet all three main parties maintain policies of continuing the war indefinitely – even when the person we’re trying to keep in power threatened to join the Taliban – wasting more lives and billions of pounds we can’t afford, for no appreciable benefit other than to justify the further destruction of our civil liberties in order to combat a danger that only exists in the first place because we went to war. Pick your favourite, citizen.

TORIES: indefinite Afghan presence, aggressive interventionism
LABOUR: indefinite Afghan presence, aggressive interventionism
LIB DEMS: indefinite Afghan presence, aggressive interventionism

5. “I’M ANTI-NUCLEAR”

The Cold War is over. There is, quite simply, no military threat to the United Kingdom on the face of the planet. Yet all three of our main political parties want to spend tens of billions of pounds on new nuclear weapons. Most of the electorate is strongly opposed to this policy, whether it comprises the like-for-like replacement of Trident (Labour and the Tories) or the Lib Dems’ mysterious unnamed possible alternative.

Of course, a vocal minority demands the retention of a nuclear “deterrent” – despite the fact that it didn’t deter Saddam Hussein, or even deter Argentina from invading British sovereign soil – on the grounds that “we don’t know what might happen in the future”.

And of course, they’re right – we don’t know what might happen in the future. China, despite the fact that it’s basically going to own the West within a generation anyway by purely economic means, might for some unfathomable reason decide to send the People’s Liberation Army to invade the UK (thereby obliterating one of its own biggest export markets as well as unquestionably starting a world war whether Britain was nuclear-armed or not).

By the same token, Earth might be menaced by 900-MILE HIGH GIANT SPACE DINOSAURS!!! The Large Hadron Collider might achieve sentience and decide to atomise the entire planet in the search for the Higgs Boson. The new breed of Daleks might finally work out that if they just shoot The Doctor straight away the first moment they see him, he won’t be able to stop them destroying the entire non-Dalek universe. We just don’t know.

So why aren’t we spending countless billions of pounds on those threats too? They’re no more ridiculous than the idea of China invading, and equally likely to result in the total obliteration of mankind.

(In fact, if in Cameron’s deranged fantasy world China did ever want to attack the UK, its huge physical size and enormous population could easily absorb the detonation of the UK’s entire operational nuclear arsenal on its territory and barely register a scratch. If the Chinese REALLY wanted to invade – and remember, this is a nation happy to murder thousands (or millions) of its own citizens when it feels like it – the single UK nuclear submarine that’s on patrol at any given time isn’t going to stop it. Indeed, they’d simply sink the sub as the act that started the war.)

Fortunately we live in a democracy, and therefore can simply elect a government that doesn’t want to hurl incomprehensibly vast sums of our money down a pointless nuclear black hole when there are about a million more pressing things to spend it on. What’s that? Oh, right. Sorry. Our mistake.

TORIES: retain and replace Trident
LABOUR: retain and replace Trident
LIB DEMS: retain and replace Trident

6. “I BELIEVE IN MORE EQUABLE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH”

International research shows beyond any reasonable doubt that all the happiest, healthiest countries on Earth are the ones where income inequality is lowest. Due to the inherent selfishness of human nature, the only practical way to significantly lower economic inequality is through relatively high taxation aimed primarily at delivering top-grade public services that improve the quality of life for all, not just the rich.

(In a nutshell, this is the basic premise of socialism. It’s not about somehow trying to make everyone equally rich/poor, which is communism.)

Accordingly, 85% of British voters want the wealth gap between the rich and poor to get smaller, not wider – not out of petty selfish envy, but simply because it ultimately makes everyone in the country happier. 13 years of “Labour” government, and 18 years of Tory government before it, have achieved the exact opposite.

So since we live in a democracy and have freedom of choice, at least one of the main parties must presumably be standing on a high-tax, redistributive policy platform, so that the electorate can vote them into power in order to put this extensively-proven successful socio-economic model into practice, yes?

You’re really not getting how this works, are you?

TORIES: no redistributive tax policies, increasing wealth gap
LABOUR: no redistributive tax policies, increasing wealth gap
LIB DEM: no redistributive tax policies, increasing wealth gap

7. “I HATE FOREIGNERS”

Well, okay. You’re in luck. Pick any party you like.

TORIES: restrict and reduce immigration
LABOUR: restrict and reduce immigration
LIB DEM: restrict and reduce immigration

8. “I DON’T LIKE BEING POWERLESS”

Tragically, there’s nothing UK voters can do about any of this. Our current electoral system has brought about the situation where every party has triangulated its position to appeal to the tiny percentage of voters who actually have any power, and who happen to mostly populate the right-wing, authoritarian end of the spectrum.

If our electoral system actually represented in any sort of proportional way the wishes of the people who go out and vote, there’d be no need for all the parties to pander to the same tiny minority, because everyone’s vote would count for something. (At present, more than half of all General Election votes are pointless and worthless.) Parties could stand for what they – and much of the public – actually believes in. But our twisted, broken system of democracy ensures that it can’t happen, so people are forced to make a meaningless choice between lizards.

If you like things the way they are, that’s fine. You can vote for the status quo, and just pray that you never fall through one of the cracks into the dark, desperate, land that is the hidden underworld of poverty in modern Britain. Because once you’re in there, the odds against ever getting back out are stacked higher than you can imagine, and growing more so every day as the Tories continue Labour’s policy of dumping a million sick and disabled people into the dole queues.

On the other hand, if you’d like your voice to be heard, and you’re lucky enough to live in Scotland, you do have another option. It’s a bit drastic, but it’ll give you the chance to elect a party that’s committed to building social housing (while also ending the right to buy that started and sustained the disastrous property “boom” as Labour and the Tories both try to preserve it), to removing nuclear weapons, to getting and keeping Scottish troops out of imperial wars, to angering the BNP (rather than pandering to them) by adopting a positive attitude on immigration, and to reducing the burden of taxation on ordinary people rather than just millionaires.

When Johann Lamont says that all of these things can be achieved within the UK, the simple truth is that in every conceivable political sense she’s lying. Labour supports keeping and upgrading Trident, supports the Tories’ savage austerity cuts (quibbling only slightly over their timescale), took the country to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, backs £6000 tuition fees, bitterly opposed the SNP’s council tax freeze (except for a brief moment of cynical electoral opportunism that backfired horribly), and began the welfare “reforms” that the coalition are enthusiastically continuing.

It’s for this reason that most socialist organisations support Scottish independence, and why so many of Labour and the trade union movement’s left-wing old guard in Scotland (Jimmy Reid, Dennis Canavan, Tommy Brennan) have converted to the nationalist cause as the only effective possibility of opposition to Tory values.

(Modern-day Labour activists – in thrall to Blairite neoliberalism and the electoral success it appeared to produce, despite all the heavy lifting having been done by John Smith – still cling defiantly to the word “socialism” but, as we’ve seen above, have long since abandoned all of its actual principles.)

Despite Lamont’s strident claims to the contrary, there is simply no UK alternative to centre-right neoliberalism, and nor will there be for a generation or more. (The amount of time it took to turn Labour round from the traditional left-wing party of Michael Foot to the unrecognisable one made in the image of Tony Blair, and the minimum amount of time it would take to change it back again – assuming there was a will to do such a thing, which there currently isn’t the slightest sign of.)

That ideology has been the dominant force in British politics since 1979, and the orthodox consensus since 1997. When we’ve reached the point where the leader of the Labour Party can mockingly deride the very idea that he might be “Red” without being chased from the conference hall by an angry mob, believing that social democracy can be delivered through Westminster is simply a delusional, wishful fantasy.

In autumn 2014, Scotland alone will still have the opportunity to make that choice.

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  1. 09 06 12 04:42

    Essential Reading | laidbackviews

46 to “The wrong lizards”

  1. YesYesYes says:

    What a stunning post. Outstanding!
     
    These are the messages that we must hammer home relentlessly between now and 2014.
     
    Why are we wasting so much of our precious time, energy and resources fighting a losing battle against the Tories at Westminster, when we could be using that precious time, energy and resources building the kind of Scotland that most of us want to see?

      

  2. Doug Daniel says:

    (In a nutshell, this is the basic premise of socialism. It’s not about somehow trying to make everyone equally rich.)”
     
    Indeed.  Being rich does not make people happy, no matter how much we think it does. Lottery winners get a short buzz, but soon their happiness level goes back to whatever it was before they won. So having lots of money is not the quick path to eternal happiness; however, one thing that is guaranteed to make people sad is seeing vast differences in the wealth of others in our society.

    Everything in life is about perception. In global terms, the poorest in Scotland are actually amongst the richest in the world; but it doesn’t feel like that for those living in poverty in Easterhouse or Calton. Their satisfaction in life means they might as well be starving to death in an African village. After all, the aspirations for the poor in Africa are merely to survive into adulthood, something which – to an extent – is a realistic aim; but the aspirations of poor people in wealthy countries are so far from reality that they might as well wish they could turn water into wine. Just as low self confidence stems from a massive gap between where a person thinks they should be and where they perceive themselves to actually be, our happiness with our lot in life is predicated on the gap between what we want from life, and what we can realistically get out of it.

    We should not be afraid of trying to decrease the gap between the richest and poorest from both ends; indeed, it’s the only way we can achieve it, because trying to make everybody rich is guaranteed to fail. One of my favourite German films, The Edukators, sees a group of rebellious young folk breaking into houses just to rearrange the furniture and leave a note saying “YOU HAVE TOO MUCH MONEY”. We need to have the balls to say to the elite “YOU HAVE TOO MUCH MONEY” and then take it from them. Otherwise we’ll never have a content society.

    Great post Stu, one of your best in fact. 

      

  3. Stuart M says:

    Devastatingly good post.

      

  4. Tony Little says:

    Wow, read this this morning and agreed with every word.  An excellent summarisation of the mess that Westminster politics has brought to the UK, and the best manifesto for regaining our Independence that I have seen.  It should be posted through every door in Scotland.
    Bravo!

    @Doug: “We need to have the balls to say to the elite “YOU HAVE TOO MUCH MONEY” and then take it from them. Otherwise we’ll never have a content society.”

    Brilliant comment. There is so much we COULD do with the right political will and the drive. This is only possible in an Independent Scotland.

      

  5. douglas clark says:

    That is probably the best pro independence arguement I have read anywhere. It deserves a far wider audience than just this site, Maybe the SNP should use it as their next mail shot?

      

  6. Derick fae Yell says:

    Outstanding.  repost, forward, circulate – get this one out there

      

  7. orpheuslyre says:

    Brilliant and passionate argument Stu

      

  8. The unfortunate part is we do not live in a democracy,a minority always rule the country,try and do the arithmetic,and you’ll see.The way Westminster operates means we can never be a democracy unless we pull it down and rebuild it (Metaphorically of course) I really believe that an Independent Scotland will help all of the countries of the UK to achieve democracy.Its probably the only chance we will get.

      

  9. Shirley says:

    Brilliant. Agree with Derek fae Yell – we need to get it out there. 

      

  10. Fiona Brown says:

    Excellent. Needs no addition except widest possible circulation 

      

  11. Juteman says:

    Superb.

      

  12. Arbroath1320 says:

    Excellent Stu.
     
    Can I just add some points to your Tenant section.
     
    We have just received a leaflet from our local social housing company, D.G.H.P., giving details of how the Tories new “Bedroom Tax” will affect tenants. Here are a few examples:
     
    1. A single person who is living in a council house with MORE than 1 bedroom.
    2. A couple who live in a council house with MORE than 1 bedroom.
    3. Families who live in a council house with MORE than 3 bedrooms where children could SHARE a bedroom.
    4. Families who live in a council house and have FOSTER children. The foster children will NOT be taken into account when decisions are made about the size of the house.
     
    Here are the assumptions made by our “(in)glorious” Westminster government:
     
    1. Children aged 15 or under are expected to share a bedroom with another child of the same sex.
    2. Children who are 9 or younger are expected to share a bedroom regardless of sex.
     
    Now remember, ALL these points WILL affect people no matter their marital/family status who are in receipt of Housing Benefit, in other words the POOREST in our society and of working age. Working age is set to be 61 years and 6 months when this tax comes into force in April 2013. Don’t worry though the age limit is set to increase annually so that you will be considered to be of working age in 2020 if you are UNDER 66 years old.
     
    How much will this cost?
     
    1. If you are in receipt of housing benefit and have 1 “extra” bedroom you will see a 14% reduction in your benefit.
    2. If you receive housing benefit and have 2 or more extra bedrooms then you will see a reduction of 25% in your benefit.
     
    Now you can call me thick, (YOUR THICK! :D) but here’s a scenario that I wonder what our “dear leaders” think about.
     
    Consider a couple who have lived in the same council house all their working lives. They are both working. Their house has three bedrooms and they have two kids, a boy and a girl who are now both grown up and “flown the nest”. Under the Tory plans this couple are now due to “receive” a 25% reduction in their housing benefit. I have one itsy bitsy little question.
     
    Suppose EITHER or BOTH their kids come to visit them and bring their respective families along. Where are they all expected to sleep? ON THE FLOOR!
     
    Sorry about that, I’ve been on the rant for too long! :D

      

  13. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Families who live in a council house and have FOSTER children. The foster children will NOT be taken into account when decisions are made about the size of the house.”

    Seriously? That’s incredible. Got a source?

      

  14. Arbroath1320 says:

    Hi Stu.
     
    I was reading/paraphrasing/copying, call it what you like from a leaflet that we have received in the mail today from D.G.H.P., the group who look after all the repairs etc to council housing in Dumfries and Galloway. I’ve just been on their website but can’t find any reference to the leaflet there. However, I have found this which I think pretty well explains what I’ve read in the pamphlet.
     
    http://www.housing.org.uk/policy/welfare_reform/%E2%80%98under-occupation%E2%80%99_penalty.aspx
     
    Oh. can I just add that I missed out a wee question for our beloved Labour party.
     
    “What are they going to do about this, apart from that is sit with their collective thumbs stuck up their collective A***!”
     
     

      

  15. Peter Curran says:

    Superb post – informative in exactly the way that is needed for the next two years. Congratulations – and thank!
     
    Peter

      

  16. annie says:

    This should be required reading for everyone before the referendum. I’m a bit slow on the uptake today just “got” the title of your last post Zombie revived by halfwit – very funny.

      

  17. Tris says:

    This post could win the referendum pretty much single handed. I’m pretty sure there must be stuff you left out, but I’m damned if I can think what it would be.

    Plain Brilliant, your reverence.

    I’m going to copy it and keep it.  

      

  18. Macart says:

    Wow, simply wow.

    That’s what you call a post.

      

  19. Juteman says:

    I’ve been thinking more on your article, and it is exactly what needs to be laid in front of the Scottish public.
    It isn’t too ‘technical’ for non-political types, but simply well written, and gets straight to the heart of the matter.
     In 2014, do folk want to vote for even more neo-liberal pain, or do they want their own voice and future to be decided in an independant Scotland? 
     
    This article needs to go mainstream.

      

  20. Graeme McAllan says:

    Thank you for assisting me with my decision – let’s all vote a big “YES” and control our own purse and policies ;-)))

      

  21. John Böttcher says:

    I’m going to email this article widely.

    Superb piece.

    Regards 

      

  22. Siôn Eurfyl Jones says:

    For me, the piece got of to a good start with a brilliant joke from the mouth of La Lamont herself! “. . .that her party provided a genuine ideological alternative to the right-wing neoliberal philosophy which has dominated UK politics since 1979″ – and got better from there on.

    Never mind that her party were in government for 13 of the years since 1979, never mind that the present politburo of (nearly)New Labour are still firmly wedded (or should that be Welded) to neo-liberal capitalism, and the worship of wealth, she really really believes they offer an “idealogical” alternative! (That’s the bit that cracks me up! Johann, ‘idealogical’ – on the same sentence!)  

      

  23. peter says:

    superb article, sir. i feel as if im insulting you by just typing that meagre praise.
     
    excellent.

      

  24. Rob says:

    Great argument, except that Scottish Politicians are potentially even more corrupt if they were ever given their wet dream and put in charge because of the relative lack of scrutiny. Lets not forget that Alex Salmond would get into bed with anyone as long as they make a fat donation to the SNP coffers – you can judge a man by the company he keeps, and folk like the billionaire homophobe SNP donor Brian Souter do not impress me in the slightest.

    There is a nasty and greedy gangster undercurrent to Scottish political society, and lets not get all sentimental about it, the game of Power is the same wherever played. At least the UK has some independent media, I dont see that surviving in Scotland for long under the SNP or Scottish Labour – the two of them would quickly form a cosy alliance.

      

  25. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “you can judge a man by the company he keeps, and folk like the billionaire homophobe SNP donor Brian Souter do not impress me in the slightest”

    Yawn. Bit of a boring complaint – all parties have some unsightly donors, because generally speaking you don’t become rich enough to donate large sums of money to anything if you’re a nice guy. Point is, the SNP took Souter’s cash and then brought forward and backed a consultation to legalise gay marriage, so clearly he’s not dictating their policies – unlike when Labour sold out to Bernie Ecclestone and didn’t even get to keep the money. (And people always go on about the SNP’s “dodgy donors” plural, when in fact Souter is the only one.)

      

  26. Hazel Lewry says:

    Been sharing this all over the place…. about to start again. Excellent.

      

  27. Jen says:

    Brilliant article!  Well done, one of the best articles, I have read in a while.

      

  28. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    @Rob – I think it goes without saying that the SNP are not the end of Scottish Politics.

    Independence will bring the old parties to the fore too.

    Trying to imply that all politicians are the same so why bother is a tired and old argument. You only hove to look at the policies of the Scottish SNP, Greens, Socialist etc… etc… to know that that is not the case.

    @RevStu – Great Article. I would only add the following:

    I BELIEVE IN THE NHS

    It was clear to see from Camerons initial statements that the NHS was safe in his hands that it actually meant that the system would be abused and contorted until it could no longer maintain the services it was set up to do.

    The rot started with the implementation of free market economics into the health service by labour and was abetted by the actions of the Lib Dems in the coalition.

    I believe that health care should remain free at the point of need and covered through the use of taxation!!!

    Health is not the preserve of the rich, but the duty of the government to provide, as is safety (Police, justice & Punishment) and security (Military, Intellegence & Anti-terrorism). These are pure public white goods, as the more people who use them it doesnt matter as they cost the same.

    This was the Un-bastardised version of Adam Smith, before the Neo-liberals got hold of him. That there are instances where free market economics will never provide the best allocation of resources and so the state must intervene. The man was a giant, and now tragically misunderstood.

    Sadly today we live in a three flavour neo-liberal hegemony that will never alter… ever! The people who espouse this view are intellectual pygmies and not worthy of running a country.

    Let us take this opportunity to rid ourselves of these pygmies, standing on the shoulders of giants, and become a free country again, able to use the resources we have for the betterment of all people in Scotland!

      

  29. douglas clark says:

    Rob,

    What does ‘potentially more corrupt’ actually mean?

    Everyone is ‘potentially more corrupt’ than they currently are. You, me, everyone.

    Indeed, ‘everyone is potentially less corrupt’ is an equally ridiculous statement. They are both meaningless.

    Quite why we would be more prone to corruption as an independent nation is not at all clear from your comment. You say that there would be less scrutiny. I doubt that very much. At the very least the electorate could get shot of a corrupt MSP.

    Two things that I do think requires re-inforcing is the ‘right of recall’ of any MSP. That should be in the independence declaration. And the level of conduct in public life and the consequences of breaking them should be tightened up a lot. It is ridiculous that an MP can head butt people and remain as a representative.
     
     
     
     

      

  30. Derick fae Yell says:

    RE the ‘Bedroom Tax’ changes – yes Arbroath 1320 is correct.  And quite apart from the hideous social effects there are substantial effects on the finances of social landlords.  Most social housing providers at present are increasing staff numbers on the rent side as rent arrears are expected to soar due to the ‘reforms’, so it is anticipated there will be more people in difficulties financially.  And likely more relationship breakdowns etc lots of negative indirect consequences. The Banks have already increased their lending charges on the assumption that arrears will double – and that makes new building very much more difficult.  This is will be final straw for most small housing associations – sadly on top of the Scottish Government’s disproportionate cut in housing association grant.  The Association I work with has built (from nothing) 550 houses in a pressured rural area.  The combination of the increased bank rates due to the welfare cuts, and the SG grant cuts, mean we cannot build any more.  The restarted council programmes and further restrictions (preferably the end of) the Right to Buy are good. swings and roundabouts. 

      

  31. Appleby says:

    Rob is another baseless fearmonger and mudslinger, using such weasel terms as “potentially even more”. Typical FUD. Here to muddy the waters but not prove anything or accept criticism of the union and party.

      

  32. Big boab says:

    Rob , google labour sleaze.
     
    That should keep you busy for a while.
     
     
     

      

  33. Martin says:

    Really good post, agree with every word. However.. doesn’t address Alex Salmond’s cosy relationship with Rupert Murdoch. Reptiles everywhere you turn.

      

  34. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Because he doesn’t have one, and if he did it would have no bearing on the subject in any case? The SNP’s policies remain unchanged.

      

  35. YesYesYes says:

    @martin and @Rev Stuart Campbell,
     
    Yes. The Salmond-Murdoch connection, such as it is – I note that in the amendment at the end of his article, Carrell modified his earlier assertion that Alex Salmond had met Rupert Murdoch a couple of dozen times to Salmond had met executives of News International a couple of dozen times – has caused mild discomfort to the SNP. Mild, because, compared to the connections between New Labour and both Murdoch and News International, there really is no comparison.
     
    After Ed Miliband was elected leader of Labour, the Financial Times reported that big business donations to the Labour Party had dried up. Anyone can monitor business donations to the Labour Party on The Electoral Commission’s website or at Powerbase’s website. But, be warned, in the case of the Labour Party, it’s an extremely time-consuming task as it’s a long  – no, make that very very very long – list of business donors to Labour, even since the late 1990s never mind since 1994.
     
    Incidentally, I note that in a previous comment on this thread Stuart (June 9th, 10.05pm), you rightly took another poster to task for suggesting that, like Labour, the SNP was knee-deep in cash donations from big business:
     
    “And people always go on about the SNP’s ‘dodgy donors ‘ (plural)when in fact Souter is the only one”.
     
    I’ve noticed this too. The way it’s usually phrased is something along the lines of, ‘I admit that Labour has history on this, but look at the SNP, with Souter and the like’. I’ve always wondered who these legions of SNP donors – anonymously identified by the catch-all phrase ‘and the like’ – are? For no matter how hard they try, the people raising these smears never seem to be able to identify anyone but Souter.
     
    Next time that you encounter an apologist for Scottish Labour raising this smear, make a deal with them. Tell them that you’ll happily list every donation of more than £5,000 made to the SNP in the last ten years if they’ll agree to list every donation of more than £5,000 made to the Labour Party in the last ten years. It’s funny, but that always seems to work a treat.
     
    To return to the FT. What the FT suggested in its article is that Ed would have to work hard to woo back big business and encourage it to restore its former level of donations to the Labour Party. Now how might Ed do this?
     
    He could continue where his party left off in office and turn Britain into a neo-liberal’s paradise. He could also do what Labour did before. That is, reward big business donors to the Labour Party with peerages and then appoint quite a significant number of these unelected lords to senior positions in government.
     
    Older readers of Wings might remember the former Tory chancellor, Nigel Lawson, justifying former Tory governments’ ideology of a minimal state and cutting public expenditure with his sound-bite: “The government of business is not the business of government”.
     
    Under Labour this was effectively inverted and became: Business in government is the business of government.  

      

  36. tearlach says:

    @yesyesyes

    Game set and match……….
     

      

  37. Strathedin says:

    Solid sense…an excellent overview…refreshing! Spread it around… I will!!

      

  38. ReV VAdAUL says:

    I will say up front that I’m a poor English person and thus naturally I find the desire to leave the majority of the population in England, Wales and Northern Ireland high and dry on the part of Scottish nationalists so they can pursue the dubious dream of independence deeply distasteful.

    I am curious though why when up to a couple of years ago Salmond was singing the praises of neo-liberalism and specifically praising the economic policies that ruined Ireland and Iceland you are so sure that Scotland will somehow not be a neo-liberal hellhole like the UK is now, albeit with a smaller economy and a weaker ability to stand up to the influence of corporations and the wealthy.

    Further if Scotland is to be a different, more left leaning society that goes against neo-liberal orthodoxy why were the Scottish Socialist Party so effectively wiped out by Salmond’s pal Murdoch? Why is it that no party exists in any strength to the left of the somewhat left leaning neo-liberal SNP, which supports lowering corporation tax among other things?

    Indeed even if an independent Scotland were to have a leadership with a desire to break neo-liberal orthodoxy it is agreed by everyone that Scotland would need to remain a part of the EU to be prosperous yet the EU is a neo-liberal creation and as the citizens of Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Portugal are becoming increasingly aware the EU will exert extreme pressure to destroy social safety nets, remove regulation and workers rights and impose all other aspects of neo-liberal orthodoxy. Indeed in light of the SNP’s keen support for the economic policies that placed Ireland at the EU’s mercy it doesn’t seem that unlikely that at some point in the near future independent Scotland would be in a similar position.

    Yes all the parties in Westminster are utterly vile but that in no way necessitates an independent Scotland would be any better.

      

  39. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I will say up front that I’m a poor English person and thus naturally I find the desire to leave the majority of the population in England, Wales and Northern Ireland high and dry on the part of Scottish nationalists so they can pursue the dubious dream of independence deeply distasteful.”

    You are responsible for your own destiny. As we’ve shown in detail on this blog, England is perfectly capable of electing a Labour government – leaving aside for the moment the question of whether that’s actually any better than a Tory one – without the Scots. We’ve tried for decades to show you a better way, but you don’t seem to want to listen, so fair enough. With independence both countries can elect the governments they want.

      

  40. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    @ ReV VAdAUL

    ReV - Salmond and the SNP advocated reducing corporation tax to entice business to settle in Scotland as it had in Ireland.

    At no point did they infer that they would cut it as much as ireland did, in fact they only mentioned lower than the EU average.

    And it wasnt low corporation tax that broke the Irish economy.

    P.S. Ireland, Like Iceland, is now out of recession and recovering nicely. Each of these countries are also higher than the UK in the GDP per capita rankings, effectively meaning that their populations are better off than ours. I wouldn’t mind that… would you?      

      

  41. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    @ ReV VAdAUL

    ReV – You are conflating being in the EU and being in the Eurozone.

    One is the EU block of trading nations

    The other is the Eurozone Single Currency

    It is fiscal dscipline within the Eurozone which is causing issues.

    Scotland would not be in any Eurozone as Scotland would not have the Euro.        

    Just to prove that Scotland would not have the Euro I will explain:

    1) In order to be in the Euro you have to Join the ERMII for a period of 2 years
    2) The ERM (Exchange Rate Mechanism) is VOLUNTARY
    3) You need to have your own currency to put into the ERM

    So in order to use the Euro, Scotland would have to Set up our own central bank, issue our own notes, float them on the international money market, VOLUNTEER to join the ERMII, wait 2 years and then dismantle the central bank we just created so that we can join the Euro…

    Sound even remotely realistic?!?!? NO.          

      

  42. ReV VAdAUL says:

    @Stuart Campbell:
    “You are responsible for your own destiny. As we’ve shown in detail on this blog, England is perfectly capable of electing a Labour government – leaving aside for the moment the question of whether that’s actually any better than a Tory one – without the Scots. We’ve tried for decades to show you a better way, but you don’t seem to want to listen, so fair enough. With independence both countries can elect the governments they want.”

    Haha, when the Tories attack the poor, the unemployed and ethnic minorities for their own gain that is monstrous but when the SNP does exactly the same that is just the weak’s fault for being weak. Both the Tories and the SNP want a minority of the British population to gain at the expense of the majority.

    Your high handed description of showing a better way that was ignored may as well be a Tory speech explaining to the “feckless and lazy” why it is their own fault their benefit is being cut.

    At least you’re honest about your FYGM attitude I suppose.

    @Scott Minto
    In Ireland the youth unemployment is twice what it was before the crash and general unemployment is way higher than it was. Vicious cuts targeting the most vulnerable and gutting the public sector abound. It sure is swell about GDP but I value a lack of human misery much more highly than a nice looking spreadsheet.

    Iceland followed its’ own anti-neo-liberal and highly respectable path following the crash but strangely enough the SNP haven’t offered any praise of Iceland’s post crash policies.

    Low taxes for businesses to attact them to a place means they have the leverage to resist any tax rises (and push for further tax reductions) with the threat of leaving. Which leads to less money in the public purse which means less services, which is how neo-liberalism also goes.

    I’m curious though, if you are a fan of Ireland’s current path does that mean you disagree with this blog post and its’ rejection of the neo-liberalism that dominates Westminster?

    Also are you truly suggesting an independent Scotland would prefer to have their currency controlled by Westminster? Or that they would prefer to establish on their own currency with considerably weaker buying power?

      

  43. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    @ReV VAdAUL

    ReV – Advocating bringing in NEW businesses to set up so that jobs can be created is not a Neo Liberal attack on the poor… 

    As for your other points, they are false logic.     

    “if you are a fan of Ireland’s current path”

    We were talking about their “path” in 2007, not now. I am not a fan of cutting services to the needy.

    Still, having a higher GDP per Capita shows that despite this, they are generally still better off than the average brit. Its not about having a “nice looking spreadsheet”.

    And of course, Ireland is Ireland, Scotland is Scotland, we will find our own way.

    “are you truly suggesting an independent Scotland would prefer to have their currency controlled by Westminster?”

    Are you truly suggesting that this is not the case at present? 

    We lose nothing in that instance, but can gain much in the form of fiscal maneuverability.      

    Your argument is akin to saying “Vote Yes and your currency will be controlled by Westminster… but dont worry, Vote No and your currency will be controlled by Westminster”.

    Its a no lose situation. The BoE sets rates to suit the largest part of the UK economy as it stands, and thats not Scotland.  
       

      

  44. Adrian B says:

    ReV VAdAUL

    What sort of socialist policies do you propose should be offered up to the people in the UK from Westminster? It seems to me that all the parties that are giving an option for the Westminster Parliament are only offering austerity and cuts in the living standards to the majority of its population. The NHS is seeing privatisation creeping in to make companies profit while prescriptions are paid for – that is a tax on the sick. In education the ability to pay is more important than the ability to learn – a tax on learning.

    All of this has happened under Devolution – Independence is yet to happen. If it can happen in Scotland because that is what the population want and value these things, then please explain why under Devolution these things are not allowed to be available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

    Devolution is a process that is available within the Union – it is not exclusive to Scotland.

      



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